Author Archives: John Steen

Little Innovations Matter

What’s better…. a lot of little innovations or one big innovation? If we had to choose, would it better to have an economy made up of a lot of firms trying to make small improvements to their business or do we want a game-changer like Apple or Google? The big innovations are glamorous and they become part of business folklore. ...

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Do Universities Matter for Innovation?

I’m probably going to get in trouble for this post because the answer to the title question is yes and no. I am employed by the University of Queensland which prides itself as being the most successful commercializer of research in Australia. However, I have never been convinced by the simple argument that universities matter because they produce groundbreaking research ...

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Do Tax Breaks for R&D Lead to Innovation?

Innovation is a complex process and I’m always skeptical about simple solutions to encourage companies to be more innovative. Recently I have written about some evidence against the widely-held assumption that creating industry clusters will make firms in these clusters more innovative. It turns out the the relationship between industry clusters and innovation depends a lot more on the type ...

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Corporate Crime Starts with Failed Business Models

Every economic bust launches criminal charges against executives of failed companies. It’s been a few years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the Global Financial Crisis but the court cases in many instances are still ongoing. One of the most notorious cases in Australia was the child-care center empire of ABC Learning Centers. The entrepreneur-founder Eddy ...

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What Does Your Innovation Globe Look Like?

When I was a boy I used to enjoy visiting my grandparents and one of my favorite objects in their living room was a globe where the countries would light up as different colors when I switched the globe on. After seeing all of these countries I would often go to the trusty Encyclopaedia Brittanica on the bookshelf to find ...

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Innovation Requires Global Pipelines Not Local Clusters

How can we make businesses more innovative? That’s easy isn’t it? We just group them together into clusters (preferably in science park developments) and it will happen… won’t it? The trouble with this cluster theory of innovation is that it confuses cause and effect. When we see a successful cluster like Silicon Valley it’s tempting to assume that the clustering ...

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Using Innovation to Disrupt Dominant Logic

One of the ‘quick facts’ that I like to mention in my strategy seminars is that only two of the top 100 US firms in 1900 are still around today. In Australia, the stat isn’t much improved and it points to the extreme difficulty of maintaining the performance of organizations over extended time frames. Of course, some organizations disappear through ...

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The Rise of Unorganizations

Have you heard of Ruslan Kogan? I think he is one of the most exciting business entrepreneurs in recent years. I only got to hear about him when the major Australian electronics retailers started to complain about how unfair it was that a business could manufacture offshore and sell directly to consumers via the internet. Kogan is an interesting character ...

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Navigating the Innovation Maze

One of our long term research projects is the problem of innovating in large complicated businesses such as engineering and mining companies. We have been using social network analysis to understand innovation because one of the biggest innovation challenges involves finding good ideas and existing expertise to do something in a better way or to come up with a better ...

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Innovation Lessons from the Beatles

Be Prolific and Focused by John Steen Tim and I are now writing a lot on the importance of focus. Being successful with innovation is about managing the paradox of ‘disciplined creation’ and it helps to have some clear ideas about what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to create value. Part of this discipline is ...

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