Juhani Anttila
Venture Knowledgist Quality Integration
Helsinki, Finland





In general, quality professionals are not very much aware of the innovation procedures, and neither the innovation experts are familiar with the quality procedures. However, there are a lot of cross-references between these disciplines. In organizations, relationships between quality and innovation are at least indecisive.

Quality and innovation are distinct specialized disciplines with their own development history, expertise, specialists, and methodologies. In both areas the modern professional approach dates back to the early years of the 1900's. Achievements and success of the both disciplines were based on the influence of strong and intentional experts and organizations. A personal creativity of individual inventors has always played a prominent role in the field of innovation.

Quality means the degree to fulfill someone's needs and expectations. Organizations compete with each other by the quality of their products (goods and services). In order to be successful, organizations must be responsive to changing market situations and strive for distinctively outstanding and excellent products in an efficient way. In quality management this has been solved through applying continual improvement methodologies. This has lead to innovations in the products and business processes of organizations. Hence, innovation is not any new subject in the quality discipline but it has inherently been in professional quality practices already decades. In fact, there is not any real improvement without innovation, and on the other hand all the innovations are forquality improvement.

The word innovation widely appeared in the quality related discussions sometimes about ten years ago. Then this concept also got an increasing importance in national quality initiatives, especially represented by the performance excellence models (quality award criteria) and the future of quality studies, and in the quality management standardization, especially in the ISO 9004 standard.

While innovation experts and many organizations acknowledge that innovation is important to the business growth and success, the term "innovation" is still without a consistent, agreed-to definition in the business world. Sometimes we may get confused about the terms invention, creativity, and innovativeness. In most cases innovation means a conceptually new and commercially viable solution in products, processes, business systems, and technologies, or a new solution that is readily available to markets, governments, and society. All business innovations directly promote the basic intentions of quality management to improve product performance, increase the effectiveness and efficiency of business processes, and make possible organizations’ radical structural and operational reforms.

Technology in this context of innovations is a broad concept that covers processes by which an organization transforms labor, capital, and information into products to provide value to the customers and other stakeholders. This technology concept extends beyond engineering and manufacturing to encompass a range of marketing, investment, and managerial processes. It also includes quality management. There are two major directions in technology innovations: (1) Sustaining technology, i.e. technology fostering and enhancing technical features, and (2) Disruptive technology, i.e. technology that simplify existing technical solutions and provides very different value proposition.

We have recognized serious needs for disruptive and “lean” innovations in quality management and quality assurance practices because the existing prevalent practices in organizations are not necessarily any more relevant or effective to the challenges of today’s business environments, e.g. related to networked businesses and ecosystems. On the other hand professional quality practices may be beneficial in organizations’ innovations processes. 

Organization-wide, national, and regional initiatives have been launched to promote innovation activities broadly. Typically in these contexts, also quality aspects have been presented, but only in general terms. Innovation experts have not necessarily been in close contacts with quality experts. In these broad-based views, innovation activity is typically seen as a system issue, although in practice innovations are created in networks. Today also quality comes from networks of individuals and organizations.

Reflecting on the development of the quality and innovation activities in general one can draw a conclusion that they continue to evolve largely as separate disciplines, and their relationship is not generally clear.

Organizations have a key role in implementing quality and innovation procedures in practice. It is not beneficial to the organizations if quality management and innovation management are developed separately as isolated initiatives from each other. Additionally also asset management - that considers anything with potential value to an organization and for which the organization has a responsibility - is an important discipline that is closely related to the two others. All these disciplines need each other and they even may “cross-fertilize” each other, e.g. there should be quality and innovation in both quality and innovation processes.

ISO/IEC Directives have defined a high level structure and identical core text, and common terms and core definitions to be used in all standards of the different discipline specific management. The high level structure consists of key issues of the business management that is significant for promoting the business integration in applying the standards. These guidelines can be used in integrating quality management and innovation management processes simultaneously into an organization’s processes of business management.

In an organization, all the management domains of the different disciplines must be seen within the development of the organization’s business management, integrated with the organization’s business management system, and be consistent with the organization’s business culture. This is an organization-wide learning process. Successful development of the business integration is a holistic organizational learning process that leads on to refining related concepts and principles, tools and methodologies, and management practices in a compatible and balanced way.


  1. Anttila, J. (2013), “ISO 9000 standards series, A continuous subject to wide international interest and application”, in Quality awareness / concepts and Applications for all sectors of business proceedings of the 4th Saudi National Quality Conference, Hail, Saudi Arabia
  2. Anttila, J. (2011), "Innovations in quality management. Prerequisites, needs, and realization", in Sharing best practices in business excellence proceedings of Middle East Quality Association (MEQA) Conference, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  3. Anttila, J. (2010), "Integrated quality approach in business networks", in proceedings of the 54th EOQ Congress, Izmir, Turkey
  4. ASQ (2011), “Emergence – Future of Quality Study”, available at: http://asq.org/about-asq/how-we-do/futures-study.html
  5. Barroso J.M. (2009), “The importance of innovation in Europe”, available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2ZkOcUVYyo&feature=player_embedded
  6. Christensen, C. M. (1997), The innovator's dilemma, Harvard Business School Press, USA
  7. Council on competitiveness (2005), “Innovate America: Thriving in a World of Challenge and Change”, USA, available at: http://www.compete.org/images/uploads/File/PDF%20Files/NII_Innovate_America.pdf
  8. Dance, J. (2012), “What is Innovation? 30+ definitions lead to one fresh summary”, available at: http://freshconsulting.com/what-is-innovation/
  9. ISO/IEC (2012), "Directives, Part 1, Consolidated ISO Supplement – Procedures specific to ISO, Annex SL, Proposals for management system standards", ISO, Geneva, Switzerland
  10. ISO (2012), “ISO/DIS 55000 Asset management – Overview, principles and terminology”, ISO, Geneva, Switzerland
  11. ISO (2009), “ISO 9004 Managing for the sustained success of an organization. A quality management approach”, ISO, Geneva, Switzerland
  12. ISO (2005), “ISO 9000 - Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary”, ISO, Geneva, Switzerland
  13. Miettinen, R. (2002). National innovation system. Scientific concept or political rhetoric?, Edita, Helsinki. Finland
  14. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) (2010), “Malcolm Baldrige national quality award, Award criteria”, NIST, Washington, USA, available at: http://www.nist.gov/baldrige/publications/upload/2011_2012_Business_Nonprofit_Criteria.pdf
  15. Senge, P., Roberts, C., Ross, B. and Kleiner, A. (1995), The fifth discipline fieldbook, Nicholas Brealey Publishing Limited, London, UK
  16. Tarde, G. (1903), The laws of imitation, Henry Holt and Company, New York USA, available at: http://archive.org/stream/lawsofimitation00tard
  17. Uhlin, Å., “The idea of innovation systems and the need for a new horizon of expectation”, available at: http://bildanden.se/Filer/the_idea_of_innovation_systems.pdf

[This text has been presented at a conference in Hail, Saudi Arabia and at the EOQ Congress in Tallinn, Estonia in 2013]