RESEARCH BRIEF: Is Education in Innovation Important?

by Johanna Madrigal, PhD Candidate
Virginia Tech


Innovation is acute for day to day performance and long-lasting survival of companies. This importance places innovation at the core of any company, and subsequently creates a need to develop systemic innovation, where a climate of learning helps to understand how and where to focus on your innovation efforts (Thomas, 2006). Figure 1 shows how innovation is the result of the interception of the organization with its strategies and its desire for becoming a learning entity.

Figure 1. Relationship among organization, strategy, learning and innovation

Mitra (2000) suggests that these innovation efforts are triggered by needs such as cost reduction, value added, and new market opportunities which have made organizations more aware not only of creativity but also of the need of a systemic innovation learning process.

 Kuhn and Marsick (2005) remark that the learning process oriented to innovation posses three characteristics: (1) has to be part of the strategy development process, (2) has to be capable of transforming, and (3) reaches not only individuals but masses to create groups of learning leaders that support innovation as a fundamental company value and help other to engage in the innovation culture.

These leaders have to learn how to work in environments where diversity is a characteristic, also have to feel comfortable about making mistakes and learning from those mistakes without being punished and finally, to truly create a systemic innovation learning process, they have to be able to reproduce their experiences to lead and manage others (Kuhn and Marsick, 2005).

This increasing awareness about the need of innovation oriented learning process has contributed to the proliferation of teaching to support innovation. Figure 2 shows Innovation and learning has become a perspective in the balance score card for companies who are becoming aware that innovation is a fundamental for success.

Figure 2. Balance Score Card perspectives (Robinson, 2010)

Jorgensen and Busk (2007) and Hesselbein et al (2002) had pointed out that today, more than ever, students need to learn, practice and experience tools and methods to develop innovative capabilities that will help them to face the challenges of innovation into their own working environments; however literature shows that although innovation teaching is a need, the education on the innovation field is small. Most of the efforts in academia have been focused in entrepreneurship teaching rather than innovation teaching. By 2008 this entrepreneurship education in US offered around 2200 courses in more the 1600 education institutions. (Harkema and Schout 2008, Fayolle and Gailly 2008 and Kuratko 2005).

In response to the initial question, yes, innovation teaching is important. This teaching will give individuals the skills to think out of the box in day to day situations where creativity must become innovation to help our organizations to remain successful.


  • Fayolle, A. and Benoit, G. (2008), “From craft to science. Teaching models and learning processes in entrepreneurship education”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol.32 No.7, pp: 569-593.

  • Harkema, S. and Schout, H. (2008), “Incorportaing Student-Centered learning in innovation and entrepreneurship education”, European Journal of Education, Vol.43 No.4, pp: 513-526.

  • Hesselbein, F., Goldsmith, M. and Somerville,I. (2002), Leading Results Innovation and Organizing for results, Jossey-Bass, California.

  • Jorgensen, F. and Busk, L. (2007), “Integrating the development of continuous improvement and innovation capabilities into engineering education”, European Journal of Engineering Education, Vol.32 No.2, pp: 181-191.

  • Kuhn, J. and Marsick, V. (2005), “Action learning for strategic innovation in mature organizations: key cognitive, design and contextual considerations”, Active Learning: Research and Practice, Vol.2 No.1, pp: 27-48.

  • Kuratko, D. (2005), “The emergence of entrepreneurship education: applying the theory of planned behavior”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol.29 No.5, pp: 577-597.

  • Mitra, F. (2000), “Making connections: Innovation and collective learning in small business”, Education and training, vol.42 No.4&5, pp: 228-236.

  • Robinson, M. (2010) retrieved from on November 16th, 2010.

  • Thomas, A. (2006). Disciplined Innovation. Excellence is a habit. Leadership Excellente. 23(7): 6.

RESEARCH BRIEF: Establishing audits for lean energy in the wood product industry

Bryan Stinnett,
MS Candidate, Virginia Tech


Lean Principles have traditionally been applied mainly in a manufacturing environment, but today it is being applied to most areas from the business office to health care facilities. The exception is in the area of energy, especially in regards to the wood products sector. It has been used in these areas mainly for the manufacturing, man power and supply chain systems.

Figure, 1. Audit steps (Energy Efficiency Planning and management Guide, 2002)

Our research will focus on three wood products companies in Virginia and with the assistance of an independent third party energy metering company. The metering company will take measurements before during and after lean recommendations are implemented. With the data from the metering company we will locate the key areas of energy consumption, and what the consumption rates are at peak and non-peak times. We have completed a walk through conditional energy survey and applied the survey to lean thinking at the three participating companies. By using lean thinking we will be able to eliminate waste (Muda). Lean thinking is a powerful antidote for waste (Muda). It provides a way to specify value, line up value creating actions in the best sequence, conduct these activities with out interruption when requested, and perform them more and more effectively. It also provides a way to make work more satisfying by providing immediate feed back. (Womack and Jones,: 2003) (Figure 1) shows the initial steps of the audit. It can be tempting to move quickly into the audit itself, especially for auditors who are technically oriented. However, understanding the ground rules in advance will help auditors to use their time more efficient, and will insure that the needs of the company commissioning the audit are met. (Energy Efficiency Planning and Management Guide, 2002

Figure 2. Wood kiln being constructed

Although the conditional survey preceded the main audit, it can also identify EMO’s (Energy Management Opportunities). The survey ratings helps identify and prioritize areas of the facility that should be examined more extensity. Some of the key EMO’s are, Lighting Systems, material handling systems, fans, heat pumps, compressed air systems dryers, kilns, and storage areas. (Figure 2) shows a new energy efficient kiln being constructed at a hardwood flooring company. (Figure 3) Is a materials storage area at the same hardwood flooring facility. These are just some examples of the areas we will be looking at. 

The audit mandate will make the audit’s goals and objectives clear and outline the key constraints that apply when the recommendations are implemented. The audits scope is the physical extent of the audit’s focus that should be specified, and the types of information and approaches that will identify the scope of the auditors work should be identified. (Energy Efficiency Planning and Management Guide, 2002)

With information from the metering and audits we will be able to define the scope then appropriate lean implementation for each company that will improve their efficiency, decrease cost and green house gases by eliminating waste and adding value

Figure 3. Warehouse

If you consider the energy crisis the world now faces it is necessary for more research in this area than ever before. When energy cost are low which they have been for long time people usually do not think about the wasted amounts of energy until the cost start to rise. 


  • Energy Efficiency Planning and Management Guide, Natural Resources Canada, 2002. Web site;
  • Womack, J. and Jones, D.2003, Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in your Corporation.3rd ed. Free Press. New York, USA