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Test your comprehension by choosing the best summary and fill in the gaps with the correct word.

1) … bought Skype, the … web telephony company for US $ … billion.

2) In some countries VOIP is blocked e.g….

3) In the US some bandwidth suppliers block VIOP traffic – this is ….

4) The ‘hot’ telecoms area is ….

5) Fibre optics will provide a … increase in bandwidth provision.

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Put the steps of the strategic innovation process in the correct order.

a. Looking at the state of the overall industry.

b. Defining own company’s expertise.

c. Looking at changes in the industry.

d. Introducing innovation throughout the company.

e. Redefining own company’s business concept.

f. Developing products based on end-user opinion.

g. Evaluating customers’ feelings.

If you’re the kind of person who lives on take-aways or microwave ready meals, you may not know the name 'CucinTech'. If, however, you are the kind of person who knows the difference between white, green and black pepper, or has at least three different kinds of balsamic vinegar in your kitchen cupboard, then you probably will.

CucinTech – for the frozen pizza-eaters among you – make gadgets for fine cooking. Special knives to shave parmesan cheese perfectly, sieves to drain pasta just the right way, six different types of egg whisk (omelettes, scrambled eggs and meringues, for example, all need their eggs whisked to a different consistency) and wooden hammers to tenderise meat just to the correct extent – these, and many other products which may look useless to the untrained but to the expert are essential tools for preparing a decent meal – are what CucinTech specialise in.

CucinTech began in the 1950s, a family firm set up in London by an Italian emigré. They stayed a local concern until a disastrous attempt to reach a wider market in the early 1970s.

«We didn’t really know what we were doing,» says Dominic James, current director of the firm. «We wanted to expand and we copied what everyone else was doing – making cheap plastic gizmos that broke before they were even out of the box.» Having failed in their attempts to go mass market, the company started to rethink their entire operation, and moved into making upmarket specialist kitchen equipment for chefs. Success, however, still didn’t come.

«We were making quality products, and sitting there thinking, this stuff is great, why isn’t anybody buying it?» says James. «Then we realised that it wasn’t enough just to make quality products: we had to become customer-focused as well. Innovation had to be about more than product innovation, it had to be about innovation at all levels of the company – especially at our customer-focused end.» This was where strategic innovation came in.

«Usually I’m distrustful of new management techniques – they’re usually a lot of gobbledegook or things that state the obvious in complex terms, but with strategic innovation it was different. Yes, a lot of this stuff was ‘obvious’ but it made sense in a way I hadn’t thought about before. Very simply, strategic innovation was taking a good idea from one part of the organisation and saying, ‘Well, if it works here, why shouldn’t it work at every level of the company?’...and, you know what? It did!»

CucinTech looked at three levels of strategy. Firstly, industry foresight. «We stopped thinking only about ourselves, but looked at what changes were taking place in the industry as a whole. We looked at what sectors our expertise lay in – product innovation, above all – then thought about how we should redefine our business concept.»

«Following that, we looked at consumer insight. We balanced consumer needs against consumer opportunities.» This, basically, was about creating a «need» for CucinTech’s innovative products. «People didn’t think they needed a lot of gadgets in their kitchens, but by focusing on and identifying the values, feelings and attitudes of our target market, we used psychological understanding to interpret these feelings and create products which the end users would consider essential.»

Finally, CucinTech looked at strategic alignment. «This, in many ways, was the most difficult step. We had to rethink the entire company – we weren’t going to compete with major producers of household appliances. The whole company had to innovate – and face change. Our strategies had to be aligned throughout the company.»

Now CucinTech have embedded strategic innovation at all levels of the company. Innovation is managed from R&D to product development and then to business development. Now they are market leaders in their sector.

So, instead of your regular lunchtime sandwich, why not take a leaf from CucinTech’s book – innovate!


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