Smart Innovation

 

Radical Innovation:

Radical Project Management

Case Study:  Radical Innovation at GE

Digital X-Ray Project

By: Vadim Kotelnikov

Founder, Ten3 Business e-Coach Inspiration and Innovation Unlimited!

 

Main source of facts: Radical Innovation, Harvard Business School

 

The Business Case is presented in the form of a football game a revolutionary form of Ten3 Innovation Training... More

 

 

Innovation Training Game: INNOVATION as a FOOTBALL GAME (revolutionary innovation training)

Strength of the Teams

Innovators:

  • Midfielders, Defenders, Goalkeeper are strong;

  • Strikers are very strong.

Opponents:

  • Strikers are medium-strong (technical development, while challenging, proceeded reasonably smoothly)

  • Midfielders are medium-strong (the internal customer created a lot of problems for the project, but given the long history of GEMS involvement in medical imaging, market uncertainty was relatively low)

  • Defenders and the Goalkeeper are rather weak (corporate bureaucracy and slowness at GE was reduced dramatically thanks to Jack Welch's efforts)

Game Level: 2 (Radical Innovation)

The project was implemented as: In-Company Venture

 

Innovators

Opponents

Real Story

Midfielders initiate an attack

 

The initial idea for the GE digital X-ray project came from GE R&D Center. Jack Kingsley, the manager of a small group of scientists working on the development of display technologies for aircraft thought the airspace display technology might be applicable for medical imaging. After talking to other scientists on his team, he contacted a prospective customer a technologist from GE Medical Systems (GEMS).

 

Midfielders clear the ball

The technologist from GEMS was extremely negative about the idea and rejected it.

Strikers attack

 

The idea reemerged four years later, but this time Kingsley enlisted his boss, Bruce Griffing, to help make the case to GEMS. Griffing proved to be an impassioned champion. He succeeded in getting GEMS to take notice.

 

Midfielders half-surrender

GEMS provided blessing and financial support.

Midfielders support their strikers

 

Researchers developed a technologically feasible digital X-ray system and were ready to build and test a prototype.

 

Midfielders clear the ball

The project hit a stone wall. Along the way, the head of GEMS had become an obstructionist. He was focused on increasing his division's short-term financial performance through efficiencies and cost containment and saw the digital X-ray project as a major distraction and a drain on short-term cash flow. As a result, he backed away from the project.

Strikers keep struggling

 

Griffing struggled to keep the project going. As the project lacked the funding to build and test a prototype, Griffing demonstrated innovative resource acquisition skills.

Defenders and the Goalkeeper come to rescue

 

The network of informal executive supporters crossing division boundaries rescued the project.

Griffing's boss, Lonnie Edelheit, head of GE corporate R&D Center took the case to CEO Jack Welch,  who agreed to support the project out of discretionary corporate funds an unusual step. An additional access to corporate capabilities was also provided. The digital X-ray project has got the support of 20 more technical researchers.

 

Strikers keep attacking

Rescue funding was fully used, but the product was not fully developed.

 

Defenders support their strikers

Top managers favoring traditional phase-gate project management approach refused to provide additional funds  for the project.

Strikers improvise and take tactical detours

 

Griffing had to depart from traditional project management procedures again when R&D funding from DARPA and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) became available for breast cancer research. Griffing redirected technology development activities to mammography applications in order to acquire this funding.

 

Strikers counterattack

Still later in the project life cycle, the project's manufacturing partner was unable to achieve the target for manufacturing yield.

Strikers adopt an unusual strategy

 

Since the project was not ready to transition to the business unit, Griffing was forced to adopt an unusual strategy: establishing a manufacturing capability within GE Central R&D.

 

Midfielders surrender

The new GEMS chief enthusiastically supported the digital X-ray project.

The whole team scores the goal

 

Senior management of GE ensured that corporate funding was available to complete the transition of the technology from R&D Center to the receiving operating unit.

GE corporate R&D Center initiated transition of the Digital X-ray technology to GEMS and continued to support it with personnel and funds. R&D Center supported the project with 50 people even after the project was officially handed over to the receiving unit. This support cost R&D Center some US$ 12 million.