Nurse It or Nix It? The Challenge of Innovation

One of the main challenges that companies face is not only to come up with something new, but to make sure that their new products or practices generate value for the firm. Professor Christopher L. Tucci, Chair of Corporate Strategy & Innovation at the College of Management of Technology at EPFL—the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne—and Academic Director of the EPFL EMBA program, discusses how businesses can focus on this in the interview with The Business Debate.

As important as it is for firms to have inventive people, it is equally vital for them to have managers who know how to harness innovation, which is about invention, commercialization, and capturing value. Prof. Tucci points out that new products or services may require firms to re-evaluate how they do business, often restructuring in order to create a path to success. Likewise, a novel product may demand a different business model in order to fully capture the value it promises. Many companies make smaller and nimbler ventures to experiment with new products, service, and/or business models and then scale them up later once they are proven. While failure is not usually the intent of a new product, some companies understand that it is often better to strategically “cut losses” rather than nursing a project along in hopes that it may, someday, be successful. If management is well trained, they can harvest some value even out of a failure—either in testing the market or in gathering valuable market information. Sometimes, this is the best way to educate the market and pave the way to a new era. If not, then firms may over-anticipate the market and commit to ventures that can lead to disaster. Innovation thus poses a challenge to managers and has led to a new demand in management education, because the last thing a manager wants to do is stand in the way of innovation when the market is changing rapidly.

EPFL MBA Education

EPFL has a global reputation of scientific and technological excellence. Turning excellent inventions into real-world products and services means bringing theory into practice in order to harness innovation. The EPFL EMBA program provides management education oriented toward the goal of taking an idea from concept to commercialization, whether that is a new product, new division, or a new firm. In the program participants learn how to derive value from opportunities and inventions. The program does not limit its focus to technological inventions, participants also explore organizational and business model innovation—things that allow firms to take advantage of changes in the business environment. Harnessing the power of new ideas is not easy, and while many people may talk about how important innovation is, few programs really examine all the elements necessary to encourage, facilitate, and support innovative activities within the firm. This is the focus of the EPFL EMBA. It provides managers with the knowledge and tools to become innovation leaders in today’s dynamic business environment.