Challenger Course1

Innovation Management Fundamentals

About this course

Welcome to the transformative journey of becoming a role model and future teacher in the Makerspace!

This is Course 1 of Module 1 in a series of 9 courses, carefully curated for role models/teachers within the scope of the EU-funded project Challenger. All courses in this program are designed and developed by professionals from Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers.

This module is designed to provide you with the essential knowledge and skills to navigate the dynamic landscape of applied research in Vocational Education and Training (VET). By engaging in this comprehensive exploration, you will be equipped to foster innovation and entrepreneurial mindsets among your students.

Module outline:

  • Module 1:          Learning the basics
  • Module 2:          Working on hands-on projects for business
  • Module 3:          Creating your own innovations

By the end of these modules, you will have acquired valuable insights and skills and be prepared to guide and inspire future innovators in the makerspace. Let’s embark on this journey towards a future of innovation, sustainability, and transformative change together!

This course is offered for free. Upon registration and passing the multiple-choice tests at the end of each course, you will receive a confirmation of participation in the form of a digital badge. After completing all courses in the module, you will receive an innovation certificate proving your experience and gained know-how.

Get ready to engage in an enriching educational experience that will expand your horizons and empower you to become a competent and impactful role model in the makerspace. Let’s embark on this journey together towards a future of innovation, sustainability, and transformative change.

Innovation management fundamentals, leadership and change management


The Essence of Innovation

Innovation involves generating value from ideas and inventions, characterized not only by their uniqueness but also by their enduring presence in the market. It is a multifaceted concept where success is measured by the value it provides—to customers, companies, and society. For customers, innovation solves problems or improves their lives. For companies, it drives growth and competitive advantage. And for society, it enhances well-being and economic development.

Categories and Impact of Innovations

Innovations come in different forms, such as incremental or radical, and can happen at the component or system level. Incremental innovations involve small improvements to existing products, services, or processes, enhancing efficiency or user experience. Radical innovations break new ground, often creating new markets or transforming existing ones. Whether tweaking minor aspects of a product (component level) or revolutionizing how a service is delivered (system level), each type of innovation is crucial for progress and value creation.

Innovation as a Competitive Advantage

Innovation is a key driver for companies navigating modern markets and maintaining a competitive edge. It is not just about new products or services; it is about rethinking business models, enhancing efficiency, and improving customer experiences. As technology advances rapidly, companies that embrace innovation can adapt quickly, seize new opportunities, and tackle challenges proactively. In a world where customer expectations evolve fast and new competitors arise, innovation fosters resilience, helping businesses survive and thrive. Ultimately, innovation is essential for companies to create value, sustain growth, and lead in their industries.

Knowledge, Learning, and Innovation

Knowledge and learning are essential for innovation, requiring a mix of tacit knowledge (personal experiences and intuition) and explicit knowledge (formally documented). This combination drives innovation.

Turning deep, unspoken insights into accessible, actionable information helps organizations use these insights strategically. This process meets market demands, drives growth, and secures a competitive edge, highlighting the journey from knowledge creation to value generation as crucial for sustainable success.

The Process of Innovation Management

Innovation management is a dynamic, iterative process that thrives on planned experimentation. It starts with generating variations—diverse ideas and approaches that push the boundaries of the current state. Following this creative phase, the most promising options are selected for execution. This step is critical; it is where potential meets pragmatism. Once selected, these ideas are executed and nurtured for growth, scaling from concepts to impactful innovations.

Key to understanding this process is recognizing that there is no “one size fits all” approach to innovation. The pathway to success varies significantly across different industries, organizations, and even projects within the same company. This variability underscores the importance of a tailored strategy that aligns with the unique context and goals of each innovation initiative.

For innovation to succeed, three essential components must be present:

  • a good idea (or ideas),
  • adequate resources—including people, capital, knowledge, and equipment—and
  • the capabilities to manage the innovation process effectively.

It is this combination of creativity, investment, and strategic management that transforms promising ideas into real-world innovations, driving progress and competitive advantage.

Strategic innovation management

Strategic innovation management is crucial for guiding organizations through the rapidly evolving business landscape, leading them toward sustained growth and competitiveness. It revolves around three critical questions that frame the decision-making process for innovation initiatives.

First, “What should we do more of, enhance, and develop?” This question helps organizations identify their strengths and successful initiatives that can be scaled or improved to deliver greater value. It is about focusing on what works, refining processes, and maximizing the impact of proven innovations.

Second, “What should we do less of, or stop?” prompts a critical evaluation of current practices, encouraging organizations to phase out or stop activities that no longer yield the desired results. This is crucial for maintaining agility and ensuring resources are not wasted on ineffective endeavors.

Finally, “What new routines do we need to learn to cope with new features of our innovation environment?” addresses the need for adaptability and learning in the face of change. It highlights the importance of developing new competencies and adopting novel approaches to navigate the complexities of the innovation ecosystem effectively.

These questions form the backbone of strategic innovation management, enabling organizations to make informed decisions about where to focus their efforts, how to allocate resources, and when to adapt strategies to remain relevant and achieve sustainable success in a constantly changing innovation landscape.

Innovation Strategy

An effective Innovation Strategy is crucial for guiding organizations through the complexities of developing and implementing new ideas, technologies, and processes that ensure sustained growth and competitive advantage. At its heart, an Innovation Strategy encompasses three key steps: Strategic Analysis, Strategic Selection, and Strategic Implementation.

Figure 1: Tidd and Bessant (2014) Innovation process

Strategic Analysis

Strategic Analysis involves exploring potential avenues for innovation, answering the question, “What could we do?” This phase is about understanding the landscape of opportunities, from technological advances to market demands, and identifying where the organization could make a significant impact.

Strategic Selection

Strategic Selection moves the process forward by deciding on a course of action. It answers, “What are we going to do, and why?” This step requires prioritizing the identified opportunities based on their alignment with the organization’s goals, resources, and capabilities, ensuring that the chosen direction is both viable and strategically sound.

Strategic Implementation

Strategic Implementation focuses on the practical aspects of bringing the chosen innovation strategy to life: “How are we going to make it happen?” This involves detailed planning, resource allocation, and the execution of plans to develop and commercialize new innovations.

Three key components underpin these steps, critical to the success of any Innovation Strategy

Competitive and National Positions

This component emphasizes understanding an organization’s position regarding technology, intellectual property (IP), and its relationships within the value chain. Recognizing these factors helps leverage strengths and identify areas for improvement or investment.

Technological Paths

Examining strategic alternatives and future opportunities in technological development. This involves assessing potential trajectories technology might take and how they align with the organization’s strategic objectives.

Organisational and Managerial Processes

An organisation’s routines and cultural aspects, often summarized as “the way we do things around here,” play a crucial role in effectively pursuing innovation. This includes everything from decision-making to fostering and integrating new ideas into the existing organizational structure.

Together, these steps and components form a comprehensive framework for navigating the innovation landscape, ensuring strategic decisions are informed, deliberate, and aligned with current capabilities and future aspirations.

Innovation Strategy & Strategic Capabilities

In strategic management, “capabilities” refer to an organization’s ability to leverage its resources—or combinations thereof—to achieve desired outcomes. This concept extends beyond mere assets to encompass the collective skills, knowledge, and processes that allow a company to execute its strategies effectively.

“Dynamic capabilities” elevate this concept by emphasizing the capacity to adapt, innovate, and renew in the face of uncertainty and change, which is indispensable for securing long-term growth. These capabilities entail the skillful enhancement, combination, protection, and reconfiguration of both tangible and intangible resources, ensuring an organization that remains competitive and resilient despite shifting market dynamics.

The “Resource-Based View (RBV)” offers a framework for understanding how internal resources can sustain a competitive advantage. According to RBV, resources must be valuable, enabling firms to execute strategies that enhance efficiency and effectiveness. Additionally, these resources should be rare and imperfectly imitable, meaning they are unique to the firm and cannot be easily replicated by competitors. Lastly, these strategic assets must be non-substitutable, with no alternative resources able to replace their value. Together, these characteristics underline the importance of internal resources in crafting a durable competitive edge, spotlighting the strategic necessity of managing and developing an organization’s capabilities and resources with foresight and agility.

Leadership, organization & Innovation as a Process

Leadership, organization, and innovation intertwine in a process that requires careful coordination and integration across multiple levels of management to thrive. This multidimensional approach ensures that the innovation journey is not just a linear path but a dynamic interplay of various organisational elements.

At the individual/personal level, the focus is on aligning leadership and team members with the specific demands of innovative tasks. This alignment is critical and hinges on several factors: relevant expertise and experience that team members bring to the table, their ability to articulate a clear vision and communicate effectively, and the intellectual stimulation leaders provide to foster a rich exchange of ideas and perspectives.

The collective/social level emphasizes the importance of cohesive goals and a shared commitment to the innovation process. It highlights the necessity of cross-functional collaboration, where diverse teams work synergistically towards a common objective. Additionally, external and internal support mechanisms, such as decision-making processes, are crucial for facilitating smooth transitions and overcoming possible challenges.

Lastly, the context/climate level addresses the overall environment within which innovation occurs. A culture of trust and openness, where ideas can be freely shared and critiqued, is foundational. Such an environment encourages involvement from all organizational levels and provides the support and freedom necessary for experimentation and iterative processes. This level underpins the overall innovation climate, ensuring it is conducive to the nurturing and realising groundbreaking ideas.

Together, these three levels create a comprehensive framework for the leadership and organization of innovation, highlighting the process’s inherently interactive nature. Organizations can effectively navigate the complex landscape of innovation by addressing individual capabilities, fostering collective efforts, and cultivating a supportive climate.

Innovation and Knowledge & Intellectual Property

Leveraging Intellectual Property (IP) rights, such as patents, is a key strategy for maintaining competitive advantages in innovation and knowledge management. Companies can protect their innovations by filing for patents and restricting competitors’ ability to replicate or sell similar products. This approach safeguards the invention and opens avenues for revenue through licensing or exclusive sales rights.

However, the patenting process exposes the invention to the public and can be costly and time-consuming. An alternative to this traditional approach is to protect innovations through trade secrets, similar to how the recipe of a famous drink is closely guarded. This strategy avoids the disclosures patents require, keeping the innovation secret indefinitely. While it protects against direct copying, it does not prevent others from independently developing similar technologies or solutions.

Despite the allure of patents in securing a market position, companies must consider their drawbacks, including potential obsolescence in fast-moving sectors and the risk of offering competitors a roadmap to work around the patent. Balancing these factors, some businesses may find greater value in keeping their innovations secret, relying on internal measures to protect their competitive edge. This decision hinges on the nature of the innovation, the industry’s pace, and the company’s capacity to enforce its IP rights, showcasing the need for a strategic approach to IP management.

Diffusion of Innovation & Business Models

The journey of innovation adoption within markets and organizations often encounters various barriers, ranging from psychological resistance to practical limitations. Understanding these barriers is crucial for effectively managing the diffusion of new technologies or practices. Rogers’ Innovation Adoption Curve offers a valuable framework for visualizing how different population segments adopt an innovation over time, identifying innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.

Figure 2: Adoption Innovation Curve Adapted from Rogers, 1995 (Hovav & Schuff, 2003)

Barriers to adoption can significantly impact where an innovation falls within Rogers’ curve. These barriers include complexity, lack of perceived benefit over existing solutions, and the innovation’s compatibility with existing systems and practices. Psychological barriers, such as fear of change or scepticism towards the new, can also play a significant role, especially among late adopters and laggards.

For innovators and early adopters, the allure of newness and competitive advantage often outweigh the perceived risks, allowing them to overcome these barriers more readily. However, for the early and late majority, the practical benefits of the innovation must be clear, and any hurdles to implementation—whether they be cost, training, or integration into existing processes—need to be addressed to facilitate adoption. Laggards, typically the most resistant to change, may only adopt the innovation out of necessity or after witnessing its widespread acceptance and proven value.

In essence, the path of innovation adoption is not just about the appeal of new technologies but also about navigating and overcoming barriers that can impede acceptance and integration into daily use. Recognizing and addressing these barriers early in the innovation process can smooth the way for broader adoption, moving an innovation more swiftly through Rogers’ curve from early adopters to the majority.

The Role of Business Models in Innovation Adoption

Business models are key in shaping how innovations are adopted and integrated into everyday life. They define the value proposition of new technologies or ideas, making them relevant and attractive to potential users. Business models outline how organizations create, deliver, and capture value, effectively bridging the gap between innovation and its market application.

A well-designed business model can reduce perceived risks and barriers associated with adopting new technologies, such as high costs, complexity, or incompatibility with existing systems. Innovative business models can themselves be a form of diffusion, encouraging adoption by aligning the innovation with the needs and preferences of target users. For instance, subscription-based models or platforms that facilitate access rather than ownership can accelerate the uptake of new products or services by offering flexibility and reducing upfront costs.

In essence, the right business model can function as a catalyst for the diffusion of innovation, ensuring that novel ideas reach a wider audience and achieve meaningful integration into markets and societies. Through strategic value creation and delivery, business models are instrumental in converting the potential of innovations into real-world impact, driving their widespread adoption and realising their full social and economic benefits.

Change Management and Rogers’ Innovation Adoption Curve

Change management involves preparing, supporting, and helping individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational changes. It is essential for overcoming resistance to change and ensuring a smooth transition during the implementation of new innovations. Rogers’ Innovation Adoption Curve provides a framework for understanding how different segments of a population adopt an innovation over time.

By identifying the characteristics of innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards, organizations can tailor their change management strategies to address the needs and concerns of each group effectively. For example, innovators and early adopters are typically more open to change and willing to take risks, making them easier to engage with new innovations. In contrast, the early and late majority may require more convincing and evidence of the innovation’s benefits. Laggards, being the most resistant to change, might only adopt an innovation out of necessity or after it has become widely accepted.

Understanding these adoption segments allows change managers to develop targeted strategies, such as training programs, communication plans, and support mechanisms, to facilitate the adoption process. This approach ensures that each group receives the appropriate level of information, reassurance, and support needed to embrace the innovation, ultimately leading to a more successful and efficient implementation.


Innovation involves creating value from ideas and inventions, significant for customers, businesses, and society by solving problems, driving growth, and contributing to economic development. It encompasses both incremental improvements and radical new developments, is essential for maintaining competitive advantages, and requires a mix of knowledge, resources, and effective management. Innovation management is an iterative process tailored to different contexts, while strategic innovation management guides organizations through the changing business landscape. An effective innovation strategy includes analysis, selection and implementation, it also includes success in innovation demands leadership, organization, and a culture that fosters creativity. Finally, business models and the management of intellectual property rights, such as patents, play a key role in securing and disseminating innovations, transforming new ideas into tangible social and economic benefits.

Course materials


Hovav, Anat & Page, David & Schuff, David. (2003). Global Diffusion of the Internet V-The Changing Dynamic of the Internet: Early and Late Adopters of the IPv6 Standard. Communications of the AIS. 15. 10.17705/1CAIS.01514.

Tidd, J. & Bessant, J. (2014). Strategic innovation management. (Edition 1), John Wiley & Sons.

Co-funded by the EU

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.
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