Engineering and Technology Management, 8 ( 1991 ) 67-83 Elsevier
Towards a new theory of innovation management: A case study comparing Canon, Inc. and Apple Computer, Inc.
Ikujiro Nonaka Institute of Business Research, Hitotsuhashi University, Kunitachi, Tokyo, Japan
Martin Kenney Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
This paper argues that innovation can be best understood as an information process which is then concretized as a product that meets demand. Two very different firms, Canon Inc. and Apple Computer Inc., are used as case study illustrations. Innovation does not proceed through logical deduction, but rather is furthered by the use of metaphors and analogies. The bureaucratic and staid structures of the firm can be challenged and broken up to provide the space for innovations to emerge. The leader's role in the innovating firm is as a catalyst and facilitator, not as an allknowing despot. The importance of innovations is not merely in the new product, but also the "ripple" effects of innovations which can propel the firm into a self-renewal process.
Keywords: Innovation management, High-technology, Case study.
Increasingly, corporate competitive success is hinging upon the effective management of innovation. Innovation has been the object of considerable academic study from a variety of perspectives. However, innovations are usu- ally considered as objects. We choose to look at innovation differently. For us, innovation is a process by which new information is created, and it is this information that is embodied in the product. To understand this process we conceptualize human beings not merely as information processors (Galbraith, 1973), but more importantly as information creators. Inherently, innovation is the process by which new information emerges and is concretized in a prod- uct that meets human needs1. The healthy firm is a negative-entropy system
1For one of the most interesting treatments of the process by which the inventor or innovator imagines the new development, see Usher (1954).
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which constantly creates new order and structure in its struggle to survive and grow2.
2. Approaches to innovation
We break with the model posited by Simon (1969) and elaborated by Abernathy (1978) of innovation as problem-solving. In fact, most important in the innovation process is the problem creation moment. That is, the positing of the correct problem, which allows the solution to be discovered (information to be created). The key to the creation process is information. Information can be divided into two categories: syntactic and semantic (Machlup and Mansfield, 1983; Nonaka, 1987). Syntactic information can be reduced to a digital form which has no inherent meaning. This is exemplified by the discrete type of information used in computers and which can be manipulated through logical operation. The...