Technological Innovation: The Adoption Dilemma

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Essentially, innovation may be defined as thinking “outside of the box”. The concept of innovation may apply to the development of new strategies, technologies or reforms to meet the growing needs.  Innovation integrates and deploys knowledge in both tangible and intangible products and outcomes. The innovation of technology means to create anew or to newly adopt an emerging tool.  Currently, technological innovation is not only accelerating towards an asymptotic peak. In an era defined by continuous innovation, innovative thinking must be more than stepping out of the box; increasingly, one must look towards stepping out of the box within the box.

In Blue Ocean Strategy (2004), Kim and Mauborgne described the objective of blue-ocean strategies in innovation.  Within the red ocean, organizations compete by practicing or adopting what is common within the existing market.  However, to compete using a blue-ocean strategy, an organization must radically shift paradigms, and depart from what is known.  All blue oceans eventually disseminate into red oceans.  Therefore “true” innovation refers to the generation of new blue oceans.

The concept of Red and Blue ocean strategies may be used to describe technological innovation.  Blue ocean technologies are truly industry-disruptive developments – think the internet, or iTunes.  The high risks associated with blue-ocean technological innovation generally make it unfeasible as a sustained approach to innovation.  However, when it works, the payoff of blue-ocean disruption is that of complete market domination, at least for a season.  With the diffusion of an innovative technology, the Blue Ocean strategy gives way to Red Ocean competition.  For buyers, the diffused adaption of a technology is an advantage – the costs of adoption are diminished over time.  However, for the owner/seller, higher competition decreases profit potentials over time.

For the Defense industry, ongoing technological innovation is essential to preserving the competitive advantage of the US as a world power.  According to then Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, the 2017 Defense Posture Statement, outlines three defense challenges, in support of which technological innovation is vital (2016).  First, the Defense industry must maintain its strong position as a global power.  Another important challenge is to fight terrorism and defeat ISIL.  Finally, the defense industry must protect their cyber activity and maintain its confidential information.

While anyone is capable of designing new innovative solutions, not all solutions are feasible for adoption.  In his article, Top 15 Barriers to Adapting New Technologies, Robert Treumann explained the risks associated with adapting new technologies. The most common risks that are evaluated across industries are (1) cost, (2) performance, (3) social implications, (4) user acceptance, and (5) leadership requirements.

To assess the “adoptability” of an emerging innovative technology, the following criteria lend themselves to the adopt/reject decision for emerging technologies:

  • Relevance
  • Beneficence
  • Feasibility
  • Functionality

Together, these criteria may be used to logicallly frame the decision to pursue and adapt emerging innovative technologies into the Defense industry.  Using such a framework enables the reviewers to discern whether the risk of adoption is worth the money, time, and the resources available.  Further, an innovation framework enables the DoD can better guard against bandwagon pressures and other irrational influences impacting the decision to adopt or to reject industry’s flashy new gadgets.