STIMULATING INNOVATION: A Systems Approach by Tudor Rickards


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Peter Drucker has all but preempted this season's market for manuals on commercially purposeful and productive change with Innovation and Entrepreneurship (p. 516). Nonetheless, this engaging entry from a professor at England's Manchester Business School has considerable appeal. Rickards makes most of his points with a running case study--on Schlurps, an established multinational whose product lines have become somewhat less profitable, owing to stiff competition from rivals able to develop and market goods more in tune with the times. While precious, this device does give the text narrative continuity and a surprising measure of human interest. Having introduced his hypothetical enterprise, the author surveys the literature (through the eyes of four equally mythical members of a high-level task force). Cited are sources that range in time from Daedalus and Adam Smith through Joseph Schumpeter, one of the first academics to appreciate entrepreneurs as agents of change. Rickards next probes the subject of creativity, noting that under proper conditions problem-solving techniques like brainstorming can yield novel, frequently valuable perspectives. In his audit of organizational options and strategies, the author reinvents some wheels, e.g., stressing the importance of matching managerial styles to operational requirements. Flexibility, he suggests, will afford handsomer returns in R&D and allied ventures. Appreciably more useful is his briefing on psychology's role in programmed innovation, which examines the Freudian, behavioral, and other influential schools. Rickards also reviews the choices available to those overseeing design or related projects whose concepts must be converted (systematically) into action; he focuses on three main possibilities--mission-oriented, negotiative, and participative. Among its other virtues, the Rickards guide reminds executives that innovation is a skill (rather than some sort of inexplicable gift), which can to a great extent be developed, directed, and controlled. In sum, a rewarding rundown on state-of-the-art thinking on an elusive process.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's