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Critical Analysis on Innovation and Creativity in Management

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Critical Analysis on Innovation and Creativity in Management INTRODUCTION

The paper performs an analysis of the of the 'Photovoltaic Breakthrough' case study that deals with innovative management practices of Palo Alto Research Centre, formerly called as Xerox PARX. Though the company has a promising product, there has not happened the required pace in commercialisation and transfer from the lab to manufacturing. A number of issues are behind the delay in the go to market approach and part of it has to do with organization culture, work methods and the mindset of the researchers. The paper has identified the issues that impact the case by discussing the main entities and then performing a SWOT analysis. Various models of innovation have been examined and applied to the case. Certain main issues have been identified and further analysed and a final set of conclusions and recommendations have been framed to provide answers for the trouble that the company faces.

The section provides a preliminary analysis to find out various issues. A brief discussion of main entities involved in the case has been presented along with a SWOT analysis and from this analysis, critical issues have been identified that would be discussed in later sections.

Main Entities. The section briefly lists main people, processes and other entities that play a role in the case study.

Frank Harlan. Team head of the Solar Sandwich photovoltaic technology unit that was improving and innovating the solar photovoltaic cell. He has been working with


the Toledo Speciality Glass company and pioneered research in solar cells but back then, he found few takers in the company for this product as it was not in the company’s core business area. He does not have a college degree and resents people who are more educated than him. He has an ego problem and needs constant recognition and credit. He believes in empirical discussions but is not interested in knowing why and how a particular invention worked. Unfortunately all his team members have been adopted his behaviour and mindset (Fleming 2007, pp.1, 3-5).

Linda Choate. Corporate research and development director with a PhD in physics from Stanford who overlooks commercial technology transfers from research centres to production. She has to coax Frank Harlan into delivering results as the Solar Sandwich photovoltaic has been under development since 7 years, cost millions of dollars and has not earned any revenue. Initially she had combative relation with Frank on developing solar cells but she respects his inventions. She believes in combining science and invention with commercialisation and marketing and an opportunity to improve people’s lives (pp.1, 5-6).

Robbie Heras. Industrial scientist who worked with development teams to hasten the commercialisation of technology. He regarded Frank as difficult but a very good inventor (p. 1).

Empirical Approach (Recombinant Search). Method practiced by Edison, the method used a combination of new and innovative materials and process to develop inventions. This method did create many useless inventions, increased costs substantially but gave innovative products. This process increases the inventory, bonds


the research team well but creates reticence as team members would not want to reveal their work to outsiders (p. 2).

Local Search. Process, where inventors used known materials they were familiar with. Subsequent tests would vary one component each time for research. This method reduces chances of failures and decrease costs but reduce the number of breakthroughs (p. 2).

Pilkington Process. An innovative process developed by professor Pilkington ‘to manufacture clear, tinted and coated glass for buildings, and clear and tinted glass for vehicles with thickness from .4 to 25 millimetres’. The process is widely used in the glass manufacturing industry (Pilkington).

Toledo Speciality Glass Company. The case study is based on this company. The company was founded in 1909, and initially produced items such as windshield glass, headlight casings and others, and now produces speciality glasses, such as hardened glass, radiation proof glass and others. The company initially used the Edison recombinant approach and has funded research in solar cells. The company has research units in Toledo, Palo Alto and a production centre at Long Beach and there is a lack of cooperation and integration between these units. Long Beach wants documentation and Frank does not want to give the required documents. So engineers at Long Beach feel that Frank does not know how the thing works (Fleming 2007, p. 3).

Long Beach Centre. It is the manufacturing unit and takes technology transfers from Toledo research centre. Manufacturing wants a ready package of prototypes that would be commercialised and it wants full documentation. There is lack of integration between the two units (p. 6).


Technology. There are certain technology constraints and issues that are common to the solar cell technology. Since this is a technical subject, this issue has not been discussed as it is not in the scope of this management study. But the root of the issues is the lack of systematic procedures in the project (pp. 16-22).

SWOT Analysis of the Case. The section provides an analysis of the strengths, weakness, opportunity and threats that the Toledo Speciality Glass company is facing. The objective of the SWOT analysis is to find ways to increase the pace of commercialisation of research work.



  • Company has a long history of developing innovative products and has achieved commercial success.
  • It devotes impressive amount for research rather than hire an outside professor or join the government funded research consortiums
  • Members of the founders family on board and they operate on gut feel rather than facts and figures given by ‘bean counters’ and such an attitude has helped the Ceramic division to grow. The company very much supports innovation and


  • Company uses the Edison Empirical approach
  • Frank Harlan’s lack of cooperation and openness that is proving to be a threat for the solar sandwich project. He is not formally educated and resents people with degrees.
  • No cooperation between the three development areas of Toledo, Palo Alto and Long Beach.
  • Company is mid sized but takes up research on the scale of IBM or Bell Lab and the costs are telling on the bottom line.



  • Company gives 500 USD for each

patent filed, there are many

excellent scientists and inventors

  • Company follows an expensive high tech strategy of using proprietary

materials and processes. There is no outside investment, uses cost control and avoids unknown technology

  • The company has ties with institutions such as Stanford, Cal Tech, Berkley college, companies in Silicon Valley and a few others
  • Company does not reward for publication in research magazines and considers such activities as redundant. This attitude results in loss of recognition for the researcher and causes discontent
  • Involvement with institutions and colleges is slowing the process of research as teams get diverted from key tasks
  • It is easy to file a product patent but difficult to patent a process as it would be vague and if details are given, then competition can use them
  • Inconsistency in process used by Frank, produces non-repeatable results. It shows Frank works like an alchemist
  • Theoretical efficiency of different solar cells varies between 35 to 40 percent (p. 22). Process developed by the company varies between 16 to 22% hence the product is not efficient as per standards (p. 18).



  • The Solar Sandwich product has received firm enquires from NASA, off grid solar towns many universities and commercial product companies.
  • If the company successfully develops and commercialises the product, then it would see huge increase in revenues
  • Company has an option of joining industry research consortiums funded by governments and customers and this would reduce costs
  • Linda and Heras act as information gatekeepers, read academic journals, attend seminars and pass useful information, translation of works to other researchers. These people can be used to head the research in the proper direction


  • Company is fed up with a lack of results and may shut down the facility since it wants to cut costs.
  • Competitors are developing alternate products that could hit the market earlier that the company and such an event would make the current research obsolete.
  • Company insists that developments should be patented before they are published but filing patent takes a long time and delays publication.
  • In the industry, experts can understand the process by just reading a few journals and the company would lose its competitive advantage if results are published
  • Franks invention is subject to severe performance drop if raw materials used are impure or there are changes in the process. There is no control over raw material

Important issues in the SWOT analysis have been shown in bold font in the above table. These issues will be further analysed and merged to form critical issues that would severely impact the company operations.



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