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Innovation: Supporting the 'R' in R&D

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When it comes to Research and Development (R&D), a majority of the new product development process involves the "D" from concept to launch. However, the "R" is where most breakthroughs come from -- and it is in jeopardy due to recessionary cuts and the short-term pressure for monthly and quarterly results. When companies are laser focused on delivering monthly bottom line goals, research can be left on the back burner.

What are you doing to support research? Are you investing enough time, resources and money? What is your organization's percentage of R&D spending? Although a high percentage of spending is no guarantee for success, a company needs to dedicate enough energy towards Research. It is, after all, the seed to long-term sustained Innovation.

In some companies, independent research has given way to Open Innovation. We have seen a pattern of organizations that become overly reliant on Open Innovation (see Challenging Open Innovation and Innovation is Creativity X Risk Taking). Although companies are gaining ideas from outside organizations, breakthrough innovations still have to come from within the company through hard work and consistent efforts. The result of over reliance on Open Innovation is smaller, incremental innovations versus market-changing breakthroughs. Efforts become more closely tied to immediate profit concerns when R&D departments are decentralized.

Research ensures companies are making strides towards achieving breakthrough innovations in the long run. Without this kind of "R" attitude there would be no light bulb. Through research, Thomas Edison learned 5,999 times how NOT to do it! There would be no Dyson ball vacuum cleaner, nor would we have made it to the moon or made any other truly game changing Innovation. Supporting the "R" in R&D means investing in your company's long term goals.

Examine your organization's:

• R&D spending as a percentage of sales
• Total R&D headcount
• Total patents filed/pending/awarded/rejected
• Number of new products released
• Current-year percentage sales due to new products

For more tips on supporting a culture of sustained Innovation, see "Robert's Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival."