Winter 2003 Page 3
The Global Race is Still On
by Frank Voehl
As this edition goes to press, the Japanese arerapidly redefining their organizations; and Europeanfirms are moving perhaps less rapidly but with increas-ing momentum to become more competitive by cuttingcosts through restructuring, reengineering, and knowl-edge management interventions. Additionally, thereare the burgeoning competitors from Pacific rim na-tions, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.The key question is: How does a firm obtain aglobal competitive advantage in the face of such stiffcompetition? Quality management alone no longerserves this purpose, as a successful continuous im-provement program merely keeps you in the race. Itdoesn’t help you leapfrog the competition becausesavvy competitors have programs of their own and arenot just standing still. Furthermore, these savvycompetitors are using speed strategies, reengineering,and flexible manufacturing; and many have begunusing their own metrology programs. So what’s thenext source of competitive advantage going to be?
Innovation is the only sustainable competitive ad-vantage to any situation. It is what enables an orga-nization to create its products and services and todifferentiate them from those of its competitors. Inno-vation is also where ideas come from that enable anorganization to cut its costs. Innovation is the focus ofthis edition, especially in terms of how organizationsuse innovation to achieve competitive advantage inthe global marketplace of tomorrow.However, global competition is not the only chal-lenge facing businesses and their staff as they enterthe Year 2003. Change is occurring at an acceleratingrate, and new technology is being introduced at break-neck speed. The workforce is becoming more andmore diverse. There is a growing scarcity of highlyskilled workers, and we are smack dab in the middleof a transformation from an industrial- to a knowledge-based society. Constituencies are becoming moredemanding, and the entire business environment isbecoming more extremely complex by the moment.To meet these strategic challenges and take ad-vantage of opportunities they create, businesses needto embrace creative problem solving and innovation in
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a new way. In other words, to achieve efffectivelevels of innovative practices, an organization mustimprove its creativity in its work groups and individu-als as well as in its measurement labs. And it mustfoster the right kind of organizational culture that willencourage creativity and turn it into innovation.The articles in this edition describe the character-istics that an organization’s culture needs to possessto achieve strategic competitive advantage throughinnovation. As Peter Drucker has said over and overagain:
Every organization--not just business--needs one core competence: innovation. And every orga- nization needs a way to record and appraise its innovative performance.