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Dealing with discontinuity: Managing innovation beyond the steady state

John Bessant of Tanaka Business School describes how some companies successfully deal with sudden shifts in the business environment.

Much of the time the challenge in innovation is one of ‘doing what we do, but better’ – continuously improving products and services and enhancing our processes. The trouble is that from time to time there are discontinuous shifts in the environment – events which pull the carpet out from under our feet and rewrite the rules of the game. For example, a radical new technology appears which changes the underlying knowledge base on which the firm operates. Or a completely new market emerges at the fringe and becomes mainstream – in the process disrupting the cosy arrangements amongst established players who are suddenly wrong-footed. Or business models change – as we have seen with low-cost airlines, the music industry or across the Internet.

How do firms deal with this kind of innovation – how do they work at the edge of chaos where new threats and opportunities are only dimly visible? And how do they search for innovation triggers or pick up on weak signals about emerging – but possibly radically different - futures? This presentation will look at some of the emerging approaches, drawing on the experiences of an international network of companies involved in our research on discontinuous innovation.

Professor John Bessant, BSc., PhD. currently holds the Chair in Innovation and Technology Management at Tanaka Business School, Imperial College where he is also Research Director. He previously worked at Cranfield, Brighton and Sussex Universities. In 2003 he was awarded a Senior Fellowship with the Advanced Institute for Management Research and was also elected a Fellow of the British Academy of Management. Author of 15 books and many articles, he has acted as advisor to various national governments and to international bodies including the United Nations, The World Bank and the OECD.


Professor John Bessant | talks | www


Date and Time:

17 October 2006 at 6:00 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



The Royal Society
6-9 Carlton House Terrace
+44 20 74 51 2500
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Organised by:

The Research and Development Society
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£40, £20 members

Available from:

Visit http://www.rdsoc.org, email rdsociety@royalsoc.ac.uk or call 020 7451 2513.

Additional Information:

Meeting fee includes refreshments and wine reception. An optional dinner follows - add £45 to meeting fee.

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