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Want to improve innovation? Tailor your solution, don't import best innovation practices

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There is no shortage of useful advice on how to improve innovation in large companies, but it is all based on a "one size fits all" assumption. But the truth is that different companies have different Working Papers 15 innovation challenges, so following a particular piece of advice can often be wasteful or even harmful. How do you avoid doing the wrong thing for your company and instead spot your own problems, and then fix them? The Innovation Value Chain framework that we outline in this article lets you pinpoint your particular innovation problems and then develop a solution to fix them. We view innovation as a process that begins with idea generation and ends with diffusion of developed ideas. Along this process, there may be one or more steps that are done really well in a company (the strongest link) and one or more steps that are done poorly (the weakest link). By considering the entire chain, managers can better assess where their company's problems lie and then fix them. This approach allows managers to gain crucial insights to help them improve innovation performance in their company. First, a company's innovation capability is only as good as the weakest link in this chain. Managers thus need to pinpoint the weakest link to improve and not import best-practice solutions that address other steps. Failing to do so will undermine innovation. Second, the strongest link in the chain is also a weakness: by viewing a strong link as a company's core capability, managers set out to further strengthen this part of the Innovation Value Chain, which can make things worse.

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