Content

Introduction in:

Joachim H. Becker, Sven Pastoors, Ulrich Scholz, Rob van Dun

Towards Sustainable Innovation, page 9 - 16

A five step approach to sustainable change

1. Edition 2017, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-3903-8, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-6655-3, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783828866553-9

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
5 IntroductIon Sven Pastoors Summary This chapter provides a brief outline of the subject and the book’s content. The terms sustainability and innovation should not be considered separately, not only when talking about sustainable innovation. They are closely linked to one another. The main goal of sustainable innovations is to develop new products and technologies that have a positive impact on the company’s triple-bottomline. Thus, they have to be ecologically and economically beneficial as well as socially balanced. Thereby, they are strengthening a company´s market position. In doing so, companies focus their activities on the one hand on technological and innovative developments and, on the other hand on the wishes, expectations and problems of their customers. Nevertheless, almost half of all the research and development work results in products, which will never reach the market. Companies spend a large amount of time and money on developing new products, based on both their experience and knowledge of the market. Yet, they often find it difficult to understand that their products and 6 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation their applications need to be adapted to customer needs. They fail because their products are designed in an excessively complicated manner or are not developed to meet the requirements of the customers. This book aims to help companies to generate sustainable innovations successfully. In doing so, the structure of the book is based on six possible phases of a sustainable innovation process: Awareness, Problem identification, Ideation, Incubation, Implementation and marketing. Sustainability and innovation “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” (Albert Einstein) The terms sustainability and innovation should not be considered separately. They are closely interlinked with one another. The main goal of sustainable innovations1 is to develop new products and technologies that have a positive impact on the company’s triple-bottom-line. Thus, they have to be ecologically and economically beneficial as well as socially balanced. Thereby, they are strengthening a company´s market position. In doing so, companies focus their marketing activities on the one hand on technological and innovative developments and, on the other hand on the wishes, expectations and problems of their customers. Basically, three different starting positions are possible: • There are already other existing products, which might solve an existing problem. By means of market research it is investigated 1 Sustainable innovation couples the protection of natural systems with the notion of business innovation while delivering essential goods and services that serve social goals of human health, equity, and environmental justice. 7 Introduction whether and how the existing customer requirements and problems can be solved better, easier or less expensively with the aid of new approaches (continuous improvement process). • There is no alternative available on the market yet: the market does not indicate a need, but there possibly is a desire. In this case, customer problems are checked and evaluated whether those could be solved by applying the new technology. and how a demand for the product could be generated (real innovation). • All solutions to an existing problem are very expensive and centralized (e.g. when main frame computers solved math equations or obtaining medical care at an hospital). Therefore, the solution is only accessible for a relatively small number of customers. There is a need to make this technology far more accessible and affordable (disruptive innovation). The market technology dilemma describes the contrast between requirements and wishes of customers on the one hand, and the technological possibilities on the other. Not everything customers want is technically possible or morally desirable. As a consequence, new technological developments must first be adapted to the wishes of the customers or new needs must be created. This is particularly true when it comes to innovations. A mere six per cent of all new products manage to become permanently established on the market (Vahs/Burmeister 2005, p. 25). Almost half of all the research and development work results in products, which will never reach the market. Companies spend a large amount of time and money developing new products, based on both their experience and knowledge of the market. Yet, they often find it difficult to understand that their products and their applications need to be adapted to customer needs. They fail because their products are designed in an excessively complicated manner or are not developed to meet the requirements of the customers. This is es- 8 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation pecially the case for high-tech innovations, as the innovators deem to believe that more sophistication equals more value for their customers, whereas this typically is not the case. Contrarily to popular believe, innovation is not carried out by genius scientists in a lab that have breakthrough ideas that change the world, but is rather perceptive, requiring the innovator to understand the problems of the customers, the ways to reach the market and an idea of what value truly is for its users. The success of a product is strongly dependent on the willingness of the users/customers to provide information. Companies learn what is wanted and required directly from their end-customers and local retailers. This information should subsequently be incorporated into the product development. Therefore, companies and customers must look to the future together in order to find out which problems should be solved. In doing so, they need to take into consideration that all customers are different and that each one of them has specific requirements. However, they are all connected by the desire to solve their problems with the aid of new technologies. This not only means that products should be developed to be more focused on the customer, but also that highquality technical products should be developed flexibly in order to be able to fulfil a wide range of customer wishes. Innovations and new product ideas should be communicated to the market at an early stage, as the customer initially should be convinced of the value of the new products. Customers do not buy innovative products merely because they are new. Novelty alone is not a selling point. The majority of customers are rather critical regarding new technologies. The balance is quite delicate, as products or services should not be considered to be too radically different so that potential customers don’t see its uses, whilst they should provide more utility than previous alternatives. In the first place, the potential buyer should be made aware of the crucial advantages of the respective 9 Introduction product. Thus, it is important to increase the range of use of new products in order to create acceptance as early as possible. Therefore, right from the start, marketing activities should receive equal consideration within the development process. Furthermore, innovations should be communicated in a stronger value-oriented manner. Structure of this book This book consists of two major parts. The first section (chapter 1-8) comprises eight chapters which cover all basic information relating to sustainable innovation. First of all, the need for sustainable innovation and the concept of sustainability are explained in the initial two chapters (chapter 1 Sustainability and chapter 2 Corporate sustainability). Sustainability describes the ability of a community, organisation or a company to operate in such a way that they also have the capacity to endure into the future. This applies not only for every individual and every company, but also for humanity as a whole. On the long run, the global community cannot live at the expense of future generations. This also includes individual communities not being allowed to consume in such a way that they burden people in other regions of the world. In the following two chapters the process of innovation and creation of sustainable products is demonstrated (chapter 3 Innovation and chapter 4 Systematic Innovation). These chapters focus on entrepreneurial management and innovation strategies. Besides a fitting strategy companies need an appropriate culture and suitable systems in order to innovate successfully. Innovation requires internal change, or the willingness of a firm to do so. Companies that want or need to innovate, need to foster innovation. That means to nurture or cherish innovation within the business environment. Finally, the first part of the book is completed by a case study about the invention of the IPod. 10 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation In the second part of the book (chapter 9-15) the five-step-approach towards sustainable innovation will be explained. This process starts with creating awareness for a specific sustainable challenge. Relatively often, problems have had an impact for some time before they are recognised or brought to the attention of someone who can do something about them. When a company becomes aware of a problem it often has no idea what it is about and how to solve it. As there is no answer to the problem yet, a creative solution has to be found. When a person encounters a problem, the natural tendency is to immediately propose possible solutions. Consequently, the thought and discussion focuses on the merits and problems of proposed solution(s), rather than an in-depth discussion of possible causes of the problem itself. Thus, in chapter 9 different techniques how to define a problem will be introduced. One important step to understand a problem is the identification and definition of the customers’ needs and wishes (chapter 10 Customer Insights). After a company identified and understood the problem, a solution has to be found. One way to do so is creative problem solving. The term problem solving describes the process of working through the details of a problem in order to reach a solution for each kind of problem, including sustainability issues. Besides logical or systematic thinking, problem solving may require creative skills. Thus, the following chapters focuses on the generation of new ideas, which are needed to create new products and services (chapter 11 Ideation), and the selection of the best ideas to solve the problem (chapter 12 Idea evaluation). The improvement of the new ideas or products takes place via quality and environmental management (chapter 13)2, or through new approaches, such as Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C/chapter 14). C2C is an 2 The starting point environmental management is the critical examination of the life cycle assessment (LCA), an analysis of the environmental impact of products throughout the entire lifecycle. 11 Introduction innovative, positive and integral approach to sustainability, which is not based on reduction, but rather on unlimited reuse of raw materials. In contrast, life-cycle assessment is used to assess the possible impacts of a product, procedure or activity on the environment during the course of its life (life-cycle). Subsequently, a marketing strategy is developed, which takes the ecological and social aspects into consideration. Green marketing allows a new, ever-increasing customer group to be addressed, the ‘LOHAS’ (chapter 15). In doing so, the structure of the book is based on five possible phases of a sustainable innovation process: • Awareness of a problem: Prior to the start of the innovation process all parties involved have to become aware of an existing problem. • Identification & Definition of the problem: After recognizing a problem the stakeholder has to define the problem as accurately as possible. Very often, a company can only overcome the challenges that arise with changes in the framework conditions by means of innovations. Innovative ideas can only take hold, however, if the market accepts them. Therefore, a company has to understand its customers. • Ideation & Evaluation of the solutions: Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing and communicating new ideas to solve the defined problem. • Testing & Enrichment of the solutions: Companies follow philosophies like Cradle-to-Cradle or management systems like corporate social responsibility (CSR) or lifecycle assessment (LCA) to ensure lasting success of sustainable products. • Implementation & Marketing of the solutions: Ending and starting point of a sustainable innovation process is the so called green marketing.

Chapter Preview

References

Zusammenfassung

With sustainability having gained a lot of momentum over the last years and companies implementing strategies to create corporate sustainability, there are lots of opportunities for innovation. Thus, the two concepts of sustainability and innovation should not be considered separately – they are closely interlinked with one another. The main goal of sustainable innovation is to develop new products and technologies that have a positive impact on the company’s triple-bottom-line. To meet this aim, they have to be ecologically and economically beneficial as well as socially balanced.

In order to help companies to improve their sustainable innovation process practically, this book is structured into five possible phases of a sustainable innovation process:

Awareness of a sustainability problem

Identification & Definition of the problem

Ideation & Evaluation of the solutions

Testing & Enrichment of the solutions

Implementation of the solutions & Green Marketing