Engagement and Innovation: the Honda Case

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The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0305-5728.htm

VINE
39,4

Engagement and innovation:
the Honda case

280

University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK, and

Robert Paton
Niru Karunaratne
Received 25 June 2009
Revised 22 September 2009
Accepted 23 September
2009

Honda Motor Group, Ontario, Canada
Abstract
Purpose – Research and development (R&D) plays a significant role in creating and sustaining technological leadership. This paper aims to look at the extent to which R&D interventions stimulate innovation engagement.

Design/methodology/approach – This paper examines, in the main, secondary data sources from Honda to assess the extent to which R&D-enabled plants enjoy both enhanced innovatory potential and employee engagement.

Findings – Initial indications point to a positive correlation between R&D and associated plant performance. Ongoing research suggests that there is a clear link between interventions and enhanced employee engagement. In addition, there appears to be evidence that monoculture outperform multicultural establishments.

Research limitations/implications – The research was exploratory in nature and relied, in the main, on secondary data sources. However, access to the secondary sources was extensive which hopefully compensates for the limited primary data.

Originality/value – Practitioners and academics interested in the relationship between engagement, value add knowledge transfer, R&D and innovation should find this paper of interest. Keywords Research and development, Innovation, Knowledge transfer, Knowledge creation, Employee involvement, Automotive industry

Paper type Research paper

VINE: The journal of information and
knowledge management systems
Vol. 39 No. 4, 2009
pp. 280-297
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0305-5728
DOI 10.1108/03055720911013607

Introduction
This paper explores the extent to which innovation can be stimulated and value enhanced through the exploitation of research and development (R&D) interventions. Is it possible to co-create value (Vargo et al., 2008), through what is in effect an internal service exchange (a point at which knowledge is transferred and acted upon) between R&D and the shop floor? The researchers have identified a case, or approach, that suggests barriers to knowledge transfer (McLaughlin and Paton, 2008a, b) can be overcome and innovative potential released through a directed engagement at shop floor level. The case company, Honda, appear to be leveraging the knowledge transfer process at the point of exchange between R&D interventions and those charged with implementation. They are combining, as suggested by Chesbrough et al. (2006), Ichijo and Nonaka (2007) and others, knowledge, technology and innovation to build a competitive future.

The twenty-first century was forecast to be one of unprecedented technological, market and environmental change (Nonaka, 1991; Lansiti, 1998; Cooper, 2000; Aberdeen Group, 2005; PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2007). This will require a constant flow of ideas that will combine with emergent technologies and be exploited by more

rapid product and service development (Kao, 1997; Aberdeen Group, 2005). This need for change can only be fulfilled by systemic creativity and innovation, through, in the main, information communication technology (ICT) (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Vincenzi, 2000). Traditionally, within manufacturing at least, the R&D function tends to be regarded as being the primary driver of innovation and change (Gassmann, 2006). This suggests that the strategic importance of the R&D function is likely to grow in industries, for example the automotive industry upon which this paper is based, that strive for a competitive edge based upon product- and process-based innovation (AMR Research, 2003).

Historically, research has suggested that there are a number of tangible benefits awaiting the innovatory organisation: enhanced profits,...
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