Innovation / Learning / Studies

Quest for Innovation

For over three years I have been doing research related to innovation besides my day job at Nokia. This episode of personal learning quest started when I was working at Nokia Quality team and preparing reports for Nokia’s executive board. I have been working and studying at same time since I was 14 year old, so that has become a way of living for me.

In 2005 we started looking into leading indicators, possible measures and enablers for success and operational excellence. in 2005 – 2006 TEKES funded research projects InnoSpring and InnoSpa provided context and connections to researchers in academia and to other practitioners in Finnish companies. During these projects I decided to change my PhD study theme from management renewal in academia to innovation theme in business context. After a career move in 2002 from academia to business, innovation in business context was closer my own work. My dear professor Eero Eloranta was very supportive. In his own special style, which I appreciate a lot, he wondered – “.. why on earth do you have to change and choose new theme, why not to stay with one you know more off? This will require hell of a lot reading to build a body of knowledge in the area that you do not anything about!”


Exploration started. Reading articles, books, classics on innovation, change, philosophy… scouting websites, attending lectures, seminars, meetings, workshop both at Nokia and externally. Luckily we had an active group of people at corporate strategy organizing lecture series at Nokia House. My aspiration for PhD studies had been for several years in the personal development plan, that is discussed and agreed annually. So when I planned to have a study leave in October 2006 – March 2007, everything went well by following “Long Term Educational Guidelines” . So I was able to participate intensively into starting phase Rendez – research project.

Questions and more questions emerged … how to enhance innovation and innovativeness, how to enable meaningful renewal, what are the measures for the success, what factors enabling or hampering innovation and innovativeness, how to manage innovation, can you even manage innovation, what ind of measurement system ca be used to manage innovation, what if the system kills creativity and demotivates people, what are the definitions for innovation, what are the models innovation, what are the possible application areas for innovation , how innovation and innovation are rewarded and recognized….

Luckily there is a very inspiring group of people – professor David Hawk, Taina Tukainen & Tuula Antola, David Ing, Marianne Kosits and professor Annaleena Parhankangas – who have accompanied and helped me so much during this long and interesting journey, that is finally approaching it’s end. And the quest continues…

2 thoughts on “Quest for Innovation

  1. It’s interesting to be a researcher working in a business where (a) in-depth knowledge is respected, and (b) the pace of change in the organization is high. In that respect, we’re both fortunate to be driven (as Gary Metcalf says) both by rigour and relevance.

    I find that there’s a tension in writing articles (and the dissertation) on whether it’s knowledge creation that is radical or incremental. Certainly, such works are supposed to provide an intellectual contribution to society, and different people on different writings achieve these to a greater or lesser extent. However, one big feature that I find in researching business subjects is that there’s a motivation, energy and life cycle that’s different from pure academia. Part of this may be due to the academic bent towards rigour, but there comes a point at which “truth” takes too long to come about. I find that I’m energized by observing shifts in business. Our conversations over the past (almost-decade!) have served as a good triangulation about whether the shift is a real trend, or just a tangential idea in my mind.

    Since my son Adam is an engineering student — and he really does seem to have that attitude and orientation — I’ve been noticing that I have much more of a scientific view of the world. I’ve been expressing this as an aesthetic. Adam wants to get things done immediately, whereas I’ve been taking a bit longer because I find the plans or designs “not quite right”. I think that this extends to my university training where there’s a sense of elegance (e.g. programming) or beauty (mathematics). These are judgements that influence the way I work. I know that most of my colleagues can’t be bothered with such details, but the ones that know me well seem to put up with such idiosyncracies with patience.

  2. Thank you David !!!

    It seems that truth somehow escapes us when working on PhD … There seems to be yet an other interesting scientist, a new view to the same theme, a possible theory that could be also included, a model that captures some aspects better than the previous, a new book or article, …

    And at the same time we are trying to make sense of the empirical data collected, explain them through theories and models and make science out of that … the reality has moved, values have been changing, organizations have been transformed, … so we really don’t step into same rivers.

    So there are constantly new things emerging – luckily I enjoy change. Academic rigor is challenging – sometimes it is achieved by narrowing the focus into details, sometimes by assuming that all people behave similarly, sometimes time dimension is neglected, and sometimes open systems are treated like closed systems.

    For me elegance and beauty have more connections to art that computer science and mathematics :-) Visited a good art exhibition in Gallery Piippo & Kalhama with Taina on Saturday. Since you like modern art you would like that. My favorites are in picture 15. (http://www.kalhamapiippo.com/artists_file/Eek%20Marcus/exhibition_eek.html)

    It was recently opened, and it is managed by our neighbors Pilvi and Mikko Kalhama. Let’s go there next time, when you will be Finland…

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