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10 July, 2015 - 10:50 By Tony Quested

Cambridge report for AT&T gets under the hood of innovation

Stelios Kavadias Judge Business School Cambridge University

A University of Cambridge think tank has produced a report for US telecoms giant AT&T that identifies ‘Six Degrees of Innovation’ – successful business models to guide companies pushing back the frontiers of technology development.

These are six matching patterns between technological change and market needs that characterise successfully transformative business innovation, concludes a study at Cambridge Judge Business School commissioned by Dallas-based AT&T.

The study was authored by Stelios Kavadias (pictured), Margaret Thatcher Professor of Enterprise Studies in Innovation & Growth at Cambridge Judge and the School’s Director of Research. It provides a guide for companies around the world to recognise opportunities for transformative innovation – and to make the most of technology in achieving this.

The authors interviewed senior executives from international companies in the energy, banking, retail, transportation, education and healthcare sectors. They concluded that businesses transforming themselves successfully exhibit one or more of six shared patterns between technology and market demand.

Judge says the Six Degrees of Innovation are:-

  • Tailor-made products and services: Meeting customers’ individual needs, such as online retailers’ recommendation services
  • Sustainability: Minimising waste and managing resource costs, such as companies which harvest and recycle parts
  • Jointly owned assets: Boosting efficiency and lowering costs, for example in peer-to-peer businesses
  • Only paying for service that is used: like car-share companies
  • Effective monitoring of supply chains: such as support service businesses that use handheld tracking systems to better monitor the supply chain
  • Using data to easily adapt to customer needs: eg clothing companies that maintain little inventory and can quickly produce new designs to meet fashion trends.

Steve McGaw, AT&T’s chief marketing officer, said: “You can see technology and innovation changing every industry. We’re always trying to better understand the mechanics of innovation, so we can help companies lead their industries. 

“The Six Degrees of Innovation provides a tool for executive teams to adapt their business models and adopt the right technology to succeed.”

Stelios Kavadias added: “This is the most comprehensive study we have ever undertaken on innovation. The Six Degrees of Innovation are present in successful innovators across all industry sectors. We believe this concept breaks new ground in identifying how and why innovation occurs.”

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