From apparel to aerospace, steel to software, the pace of technological innovation is quickening. No longer can companies afford to miss a generation of technology and expect to remain competitive. Adding to the pressure, innovations are increasingly crossing industry boundaries: a new fibre developed by the textile industry has potential for building materials and medical equipment. Some companies are adept at using a diversity of technologies to create new products that transform markets. But many others are floundering because they rely on technology strategy that no longer works in such a fast changing environment. The difference between success and failure is not how much a company spends on research and development, but how it approaches it.
There are two possible approaches. Either a company can invest in R & D that replaces an older generation of technology — the break through approach — or it can focus on combining existing technology into hybrid technologies — the technology fusions approach. It blends incremental technical improvements from several previously separate fields of technology to create products that revolutionise markets.
In a world where the old maxim one technology one industry no longer applies, a singular breakthrough strategy is inadequate; companies need to include both the breakthrough and fusion approach in their technology strategy. Relying on breakthroughs alone fails because it focuses the R & D efforts too narrowly ignoring the possibilities of combining technologies. Yet many Western companies still rely almost exclusively on the breakthrough approach. The reasons are complex; a distrust of outside innovations, a not-invented-here engineering arrogance, an aversion to sharing research results.
What does the author want to highlight by using the example apparel to aerospace and steel to software?