However, Don Pital, growth services manager for Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute said Tuesday that only about 10 percent of companies choose to compete on innovative strategy.
“A readiness survey we conducted of 31 Georgia companies showed there’s not a high sense of urgency for innovation,” Pital said. “They’re also not very optimistic about their ability to innovate.
“Over the next 30 years, innovation management will be a key business growth strategy,” he said. “Research shows that companies that develop new processes, services or products benefit from increased profitability. This workshop will help manufacturers put into place a process to develop and sustain a system for innovation.”
These kind of findings are what led Georgia Tech business leaders to begin a statewide project of teaching businesses about managing innovation. The “Innovation Management Workshop” came to the Burson Center in Carrollton Tuesday and more than 60 representatives from local industries attended. It was the second stop for the traveling workshop. The first one was conducted in Valdosta and others are upcoming in Savannah, Macon, Duluth, Cumming and Dalton.
Workshop participants learn how to apply hands-on, interactive techniques to learn why companies should develop programs to bring innovation to their operations. The Carrollton workshop was co-sponsored by OneGeorgia Authority, Carroll Tomorrow and Southwire Company.
“We plan to continue workshops like these to train our local business leaders,” said Daniel Jackson, Carroll County Chamber of Commerce president/CEO. “Burson Center has become well-known in the state. Of the 44 business incubation centers in Georgia, it’s the only one that belongs to the local economic development organization.”
Pital said there are three types of business innovation — products, services and customer groups — and gave examples of each one.
He cited as product innovations the iPad, iPhone, Swiffer mops and Crest White Strips.
Service innovations include those of Facebook, LinkedIn and United Parcel Service (UPS). He said UPS improved its service by focusing on logistics that map out delivery routes that eliminate left turns, saving them millions of dollars.
Customer market innovations include the growing senior living market, with products such as mobility scooters and monitoring products, and the mobile market, with companies such as OnStar, Sirius/XM satellite radio and GPS (global positioning systems).
Pital said innovation in products always follows a pattern.
First is the early adoption. These are customers who have to be the first to own new technology products.
The tipping point comes next, when the product picks up speed to where it’s rapidly adopted by most consumers.
The final stage is the tapering off, where the market becomes saturated or new technology comes along that grabs customers.
“It took 12 years for VCR (video cassette recorder) to reach all households,” he said. “DVD (digital video disks) did it twice as fast and MP3 players, even faster.”
Pital illustrated his point with a chart that showed technology curves associated with the sales of recorded music and how people “curve hopped” to embrace new, innovative technology.
Phonograph records were around for many years, but consumers eventually left them to buy cassette tapes and later compact disks, then finally, to downloaded music.
“The new technology curves are much shorter than the older ones,” he said.
Pital said in the 1980s and 1990s, the “quality process” was the guiding force in manufacturing. It began with an end-of-the-line inspection to make sure products met standards.
“Over the years, we got better with the inline process,” he said. “Today, quality is part of the culture. In three to five years, we’ll see innovation as the standard of measurement.”
Prior to coming to Georgia Tech, Pital served in the telecommunications manufacturing industry and in a variety of other quality, operations and engineering management roles. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ceramic engineering from Georgia Tech. He is a Business Growth Coach and won the National MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) Innovator of the Year award in April 2009.
Other workshop facilitators included Bob Wray and Connie Casteel.
Wray, located in Dublin, is a project manager for Georgia Tech’s Innovation Institute. He specializes in helping Georgia firms develop top line growth strategies, lean project management and existing product and process improvement. Prior to joining Georgia Tech, he was chief engineer with Husqvarna, a leading producer of lawn and garden equipment. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of South Florida and an M.B.A. from the University of South Carolina.
Casteel is a project manager for Georgia’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. Previously, she helped U.S. and global entrepreneur groups and business incubators grow and improve their businesses. She helped launch Georgia’s SBIR assistance program, located at Georgia Tech, to help small start-ups and high-tech companies. She received her bachelor’s degree from University of Mary Washington and her MLIS from the University of South Carolina.
More information about the Georgia Tech Innovation Management Workshop is available by calling Larry Alford, South Metro Region Manager, 404-895-5237, or e-mailing, firstname.lastname@example.org.