Some applied creative thinking

Innovation Management
November 12, 2004

This book is aimed at the increasing number of courses on innovation in business and engineering schools. It should appeal more to masters students than to senior managers, who, especially in the UK, may categorise it as "academic".

The author, Allan Afuah, trained in physics, has a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and substantial experience of engineering and management in high-tech US companies. He is now associate professor of corporate strategy and international business at the University of Michigan.

Understandably, given Afuah's background, this is a conceptual, though not highly mathematical, text. It offers a multidisciplinary approach that draws from many fields, including economics and organisation theory, and it covers innovation - national and global. This second edition differs from the first mainly in its clearer distinction between strategy and implementation. This has improved the layout, added substantive material and created new chapters on strategies for sustaining profits and on the internet.

A danger is that Afuah's readers may feel overwhelmed by the concepts and lists that seem to overcomplicate issues and may be difficult to apply.

Afuah has sought to offset this by providing examples and case studies - not least of the global pharmaceutical industry - while an accompanying website offers other substantial and varied cases, for example on DaimlerChrysler, Kodak, Wells Fargo and Human Genome Resources.

Especially outside the US, Innovation Management will deter all but very able and persistent individual readers, but it will provide thoughtful business school teachers with good course material. A single author cannot provide all the necessary reading in a broad area, so course teachers should also lead students somewhat away from Afuah's material and towards more discursive and expansive writings. They should also give students ample time and opportunity to accustom themselves to applying Afuah's approach. Handled this way, Innovation Management offers a valuable understanding of an important field.

So too, however, does the closest competitor text, also a second edition, Innovation Management by Joe Tidd, John Bessant and Keith Pavitt from the Science and Technology Policy Research at Sussex University. This is as wide-ranging and multidisciplinary as Afuah's book but somewhat more eclectic. Both are worthy texts and, in the end, choice between them is for teachers. Perhaps Afuah will be more appropriate for graduates in mathematics, science and technology, and Tidd et al for others.

Sir Douglas Hague is associate fellow, Templeton College, Oxford, and visiting professor, Manchester Business School.

Innovation Management: Strategies, Implementation, and Profits

Author - Allan Afuah
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Pages - 390
Price - £40.00
ISBN - 0 19 514230 6

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