Business‐Driven Research & Development: Managing Knowledge to Create Wealth

Pervaiz K. Ahmed (University of Bradford, Bradford)

Business Process Management Journal

ISSN: 1463-7154

Article publication date: 1 May 2000

146

Keywords

Citation

Ahmed, P.K. (2000), "Business‐Driven Research & Development: Managing Knowledge to Create Wealth", Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 185-187. https://doi.org/10.1108/bpmj.2000.6.2.185.1

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Ashok Ganguly in this book presents managing R&D in a practical manner. Much of the strength of this book lies in this attempt. Sadly, this also is the cause of many of the book’s weaknesses. Ganguly states that he has two key aims in writing this book: first, that the subject of R&D management has hitherto been dealt with in a manner that is “too amorphous to be effective in practice”, and second, that amazing transformations have resulted as a consequence of implementing formal business‐driven R&D as recommended in the text. In Ganguly’s words “Once the business‐driven R&D management processes started falling in place, the vast majority of my scientist colleagues turned out be the most ardent advocates of the new ways of working. Our research laboratories became infused with a new sense of purpose, while individual scientists began to exude high levels of enthusiasm and energy. The root cause for all this excitement and enthusiasm in the laboratories was that business‐driven R&D process enabled the employees to relate their R&D work to clear business objectives. Shifting from hierarchical organisation structures to working in project teams further clarified the role and accountability of individual scientists, at all levels, as never before. Ultimately the changes brought about by being business‐driven R&D were seen as being highly motivating by all the individuals involved, whether in the research laboratories or in the operating companies”.

Ganguly sets out his stall by stating the importance and advantages to be derived from business‐driven R&D. A host of advantages are presented, but unfortunately how these are to be derived from business driven R&D is not clear because the author fails to clearly and precisely define what he means by business‐driven R&D. Indeed, the remit of business driven R&D is left open and extremely wide thus enabling the author to cite advantages accruing from technology (IT), market sensitivity from more attuned and refined market research, better human resources practices and so on, to be inclusively covered as consequences of business driven‐R&D. These initial chapters leave a sense of discomfort as to what business‐driven R&D is, and how it is different from the multitude of efforts that are currently part of the modern organisational change façade.

The reader is then guided through a very patchy review of literature on managing research and development. It is surprising to find that the literature covers rather adjacent topics to the proposed main thrust of the book. This contrast is made even heavier if one bears in mind the fact that the book aims to present R&D in a very practical and pragmatic manner. Much is made in the review of economic arguments, citing works by economists such as Robert Solow and macro‐economic evidence presented in reference to reports produced by bodies such as the Brookings Institute. Despite the easily criticized superficiality of the arguments presented, Ganguly does manage to make a few striking points, by having recourse to the arguments presented by Roussel et al. (1991), in defining, albeit non‐systematically, the evolution of R&D management. According to these insights, intuition and acts of faith characterized first generation R&D management. The second generation R&D was subject to more strident financial controls which, while it had some merit, created a tendency towards risk aversion. The third generation R&D, in contrast, employed technology to maintain an edge in product quality and innovation to build market responsiveness. Ganguly goes on to amply de‐construct the weaknesses of the third generation model, as proposed by Roussel et al. Unfortunately, Ganguly’s own work suffers from the many weaknesses he delightfully highlights as deficiencies in Roussel et al.

Following on from this is discussion of knowledge management. Ganguly decides to make a case for knowledge and managing knowledge by borrowing examples from economic development, political programmes (such as the LINK and Foresight initiatives), scientific initiatives (such as the European Union DGXII), and trans‐disciplinary developments (such the Human Genome project). The result of this wide ranging discussion, quite apart from the fact that it can be interesting reading, is a failure to present knowledge and management of knowledge in an organisational context. This lack of focus is disappointing, given that the stated objective of the book is to provide pragmatic advice on managing and driving R&D from a business perspective. The book then goes on to make yet another case for business driven R&D. Unfortunately much of what is stated is repetitive, and little new ground or insight is presented.

By chapter five the book enters its realm of promise in attempting to tackle the R&D from an organisational standpoint. Hopes are raised, as delivery on the promise becomes imminent. Ganguly here reveals some tools for linking science and technology to drive market‐led innovation. For new to the subject readers or practitioners the book does manage to present some interesting insights and frameworks. For those with some experience (academic or from practice) in the area, the material is unlikely to excite. It is simply a regurgitation of well‐worn frameworks, without novelty and a lack of attention to the inherent weaknesses in their application and implementation. Frameworks such a customer/technology (C/T) matrix, innovation funnels and project management are covered uncritically. Given, in hindsight that this is the key chapter, it is extremely disappointing and wanton. Ganguly then proceeds to covers networks and the role of IT in promoting networks. The coverage is once again bereft of the key challenges. Difficult questions such as how to create and organise and manage networks effectively aremissed almost entirely. Instead, the discussion is primarily descriptive of IT tools. Even in this, the discussion remains nai¨vely descriptive of a few items, rather than presenting a critical evaluation of the many widely available tools. The book then goes on to present human factors in industrial R&D, and risk assessment before concluding with an epilogue. Unfortunately, these chapters are a reflection of the treatment in earlier chapters.

In reaching the end, one is left pondering. If one were to be harsh, it would be easy to say that this book is unstructured, repetitive and provides few original insights. Conversely, one could judge the book as an introduction to the uninitiated. In this the book manages to raise awareness of some frameworks and key issues involved in managing R&D. If the book is judged as a roadmap to enable the reader to construct business‐driven R&D then it falls far short.

Reference

Roussel, P.A., Saad, K.N. and Erikson, T.J. (1991), Third Generation R&D, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.

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