Competitive Advantage Through a Dynamic Innovation Competence, Case Study Example
Words: 5139Case Study
Nowadays, for a business to succeed in a dynamic environment, it is no longer enough to produce good quality products. In order to succeed a company has to evolve and innovate its performance according to the changes in the surrounding environment. McDonalds Company learned this lesson in 2003 when it began losing to its primary rival Burger King. The solution of the problem was the introduction of innovation approach by the new CEO James Cantalupo. His approach was based on 5Ps: People, Products, Price, Place and Promotion. Moreover the process of decentralisation power took place, with franchises gaining more decision-making powers regarding local restaurants and their renovations.
The present innovation framework of McDonalds is based on Cantalupo’s approach. From the corporate competence perspective, the company uses all benefits from internal and external resources for its innovations, including customers’ preferences and suggestions, and collaboration with the external research institutes. From the organisational perspective, decentralisation also contributed to the orientation of the marketing and sales departments to the regional requirements of diverse markets. In other words, the approach brand does not equal product was applied.
In terms of increasing socio-political pressure, McDonalds oriented its menu towards healthier options and took active participation in various public campaigns and environmental programs. The primary suggestions of improvement of its innovation framework include concentration on in-house creativity and involvement of wider variety of external research institutes. In both cases, the gap can be easily covered by the introduction of additional training modules, creativity bonus program and company’s involvement in various research programs.
In the contemporary globalised and internationalised world, a company has to face numerous challenges on the way of achieving success. On the other hand, when the company achieves success it does not guarantee the longevity of that success and stability of its performance. Just as the surrounding environment in which a certain company performs changes so should the company evolve and adapt its performance to the requirements and new potential of that environment. In other words, even if a certain company achieves the dominance in its specific segment of the target market or field of industry, it does not mean that the next day its primary competitor will not gain competitive advantage and gain the leading position.
Under such circumstances, the leading companies cannot stop on what they have to achieve, they need to concentrate on evolution and adaptation of their strategies and consequent performance according to the changing requirements of the surrounding environment. One of the best examples is the case of McDonalds as the leading global company in the fast-food industry. Thus, this paper is aimed at assessment of the current innovative capabilities of McDonalds and suggestion of further improvement and the existing implementation gap.
The primary relevance of studying innovation strategies and dynamic capabilities of various companies is that this research gives an opportunity to access the current performance of the company, its present adaptability to the changes of the market and consumer preferences and its potential performance in the future (Leavy, 2010). In this regard, by examining the present innovative capabilities and their potential, certain suggestions of their improvement can be made and thus the future performance and adaptability of the target company can be achieved. In other words, the study and evaluation of the innovative capabilities contribute to the company’s improvement of its competitive advantage regarding other competitors in the target segment of the market. In the field of fast food this is particularly essential since the competition is extremely high and the main leaders like McDonalds aim to preserve their dominance and not lose to its main competitors like Burger King, Wendy’s, Popeye’s, Yum Brands and Chipotle (Mattern, 2015) .
Nowadays, McDonalds is the largest global fast food chain that owns 34,000 restaurants under its brand across 119 countries. It started as a single barbecue restaurant in 1940 in the USA. Gradually the chain of restaurants spread, with the boosting if franchising in 1955 related to the performance of Ray Kroc (Mattern, 2015). At present, the company serves around 70 million people on daily basis. The company’s operation is conducted by the holding company, consequent franchisees and affiliates.
By the estimates of 2012, McDonald’s sales were around $27.5 billion, with the total earnings of $5.5 billion. Its current intraday market capacity is $95.72 billion with its enterprise value $104.77 billion (Mattern, 2015). The company has developed its own business model that is known as “three-legged stool” which is based on balancing interests and benefits between three main elements: company operators, suppliers and employees.
As it was mentioned above the aim of this paper is not only to access the current innovative capabilities and consequent strategy of McDonalds but also to suggest the best practices and potential improvement of company’s innovative strategy. In other words, the paper is aimed at the problem resolution, where the problem is the necessity of constant innovations for the benefit of preserving a competitive advantage. In this regard, the suggestions are based on the current trends in the surrounding environment and customer preferences. Thus, by no means it is assumed that suggestions regarding potential improvements are universal and could accommodate any unpredictable changes in the surrounding environment. However, their improvement could contribute to the increased adaptability of the new trends.
From the methodological perspective, this analysis is conducted in terms of the concept of dynamic innovation competence. In this regard, attention is paid to the company’s history of performance and the role of innovations in it, analysis of the current innovation competence, the outline of the required organisational changes and identification of the existing gap. Moreover, in terms of tools, SWOT and PESTLE analyses are conducted. The primary significance of the chosen approach is that competence-based approach is conditioned by the potential of various constituent parts of the company, which is treated as an open system:
“Competences are not off-the-shelf products but are embedded in the heads and hands of people in teams, organisational structure and procedures, and organizational culture. They have a strong tacit dimension, especially in innovation… a dynamic management of the knowledge and technology base is seen as the critical capacity of the firm to evolve within dynamic conditions drawing on the concept of ‘dynamic capabilities’” (Doepfer, 2013, p. 92 ).
The paper consists of the literature review on the topic of innovations, history of McDonald’s performance and the role of innovation in its, current trends in innovations, suggested improvement and the existing gap and conclusion section. In the conclusion part, attention is paid to the summary of the key points, implementable recommendations, implications for the organisation, and also potential implications for the future research of the studied subject.
The subject of innovations and business is not new in the field of business literature. It is well addressed from various perspectives. One of the trends in the literature on the given subject of innovations is that traditionally innovations were perceived in terms of implementation of the cutting edge technologies, with a gradual transition towards procedures and organisational changes (Hafkesbrink, Hoppe and Schlichter, 2010). While traditionally, it was assumed that the primary source of innovations is within the company’s R&D department, nowadays, the shift is towards knowledge accessibility and application of the complementary assets as the main sources of innovation development (Furman, Porter and Stern, 2002).
Moreover, the traditional concept of closed innovations became substituted by the concept of “open innovations” according to which businesses have to use all available sources of innovation both within internal and external paths of origin (Bingham and Spradlin, 2011). The essence of open innovation is:
“based on a landscape of abundant knowledge, which must be used readily it is to provide value to the company that created it. The knowledge that a company uncovers in its research cannot be restricted to its internal pathways to market. Similarly, its internal pathways to market cannot necessarily be restricted to suing the company’s internal knowledge. This perspective suggests some very different organizing principles for researching and for innovations” (Chesbrough, 2006, p. XXV).
The primary implications of open innovations paradigm were further development of the systematic approach to innovations and inside-out evaluation and improvement of innovation development strategies. In this regard, the emphasis was placed not on hiding one’s innovation from a competitor but profiting from it with the greatest capacity than the competitor and further use competitor’s innovations to boost thinking on the improvement and development of one’s own (Chesbrough, 2006). Furthermore, competences approach to innovations became widespread, with literature concentrating on various aspects such as tom management competence and innovations (Brinckmann, 2008), co-invention competence and corporate strategy (Doepfer, 2013) and the relevance of competence management in open innovations (Hafkesbrink, Hoppe and Schlichter, 2010).
The most contemporary and systematic approach to innovations and business performance is suggested by Joe Tidd and John Bessant (2013). The authors combined the environment of open innovations with the dynamics of internal competences and changes of the surrounding environment. The primary emphasis made by the authors is that innovations are no longer just an option for companies to improve their performance in times of crisis or decline in sales. Innovations are viewed as a precondition for the successful business conduct and an inevitable part of company’s development:
“The UK Office of Science and Technology see it as ‘the motor of the modern economy, turning ideas and knowledge into products and services.’ Innovation contributes in several ways. For example, research evidence suggests a strong correlation between market performance and new products. New products help capture and retain market shares, and increase profitability in those markets. In the case of more mature and established products, competitive sales growth comes not simply from being able to offer low prices but also from a variety of non-price factors – design, customization and quality” (Tidd and Bessant, 2013, p. 5).
The outlined above discourse suggests that particularly for the case of well-established products and markets with strong competitiveness like the studied case of the fast-food industry, innovation is the primary source of competitive advantage oriented on non-price aspects. In this regard, the authors outline the necessity to innovate not only the product itself, but also the entire business as a system of diverse competences. The importance of innovating various aspects of the company is conditioned by the dynamic development of technologies and know-hows that can optimize efforts and make the entire functionality of the business more productive and dynamic (Tidd and Bessant, 2013). Moreover, it is also emphasized that innovations should be perceived as a long-term commitment rather than one-time practice.
The diversity of the literature on the given subject demonstrates that at the present state the subject of dynamic innovation competence is a very current subject and that it is explored from various perspectives and organisational units. The systematic nature of this approach to innovations gives an opportunity to evaluate a target company through various organisational elements and procedures both internally and externally contributing to a balanced view on the state of company’s innovative performance and consequent potential.
The history of McDonald’s performance is characterised by ups and downs, yet, at each stage of company’s improvement of performance, innovation at the heart of solutions. After the initial decades of successful franchising introduced by Kroc and further global expansion of the brand, the company faced the decline demonstrated in the 1990s on the original American markets, which continued to the last quarter of 2002, when
“McDonalds disclosed its first ever quarterly loss, one reason why McDonald’s is struggling is that the consumers began to switch to its competitors, such as Burger King, Wendy’s and Subway. These companies emphasised on offering fresher, hotter, high-quality foods at lower price with faster service” (Han, 2008, p. 73).
This situation was a significant indication that the company required a substantial renovation of its approach to business conduct and improvement of its competitive advantage. The reply to the pressing requirements of the customer environment was the appointment of James Cantalupo as CEO and introduction of his customer experience-oriented innovation strategy of 5Ps: People, Products, Price, Place and Promotion (Mattern, 2015). This innovation approach was systematic in its nature and targeted both organisational and service provisions aspects of company’s performance.
First of all, the process of decentralisation of power took place – resources that were in centralised corporate ownership were delegated to regional managers. Secondly, this initiative was aimed at the customisation of each national menu to the local requirements and preferences of the customers (Harris, 2009). Starting from this wave of innovations McDonalds worldwide begin to add various cultural specifics to the usual burger menu. For instance, in Italy burgers are served with mozzarella cheese, while in France with French cheese; breakfast menu in the UK includes porridge, while in Portugal soup is on the lunch menu (Leavy, 2010).
Furthermore, in order to address the external public trend regarding healthy food and well-being and to decrease criticism regarding company’s contribution to child obesity, various healthy options were introduced in happy meals, such as juices, vegetable sticks, fruits. Adults were attracted by the diversity of salads and low-fat options. Moreover, as part of Cantalupo’s innovation scheme, for the benefit of well-being and healthy lifestyle, paper mats for trays began to demonstrate nutritive values of various products sold by McDonalds, which was also aimed at informing customers about their choices and implications for their daily food consumption ratio (Fortuin, 2009).
Cantalupo also emphasised the importance of marketing and advertising to support diversification of products and their distinctiveness. As a result, the first advertising campaign “I’m lovin’ it” that still runs today was introduced in Munich in 2003. This campaign was used together with promotions with Justin Timberlake to appeal for the popular culture trends and attract more customers of the young generation (Harris, 2009). Furthermore, as part of its promotional campaigns and stabilisation of its public profile, McDonalds became the world famous sponsor of various charities and sports events, among which were FIFA World Cup since 1994, NBA and Olympics. Recently, the list was accompanied by National Football League and NASCAR (Fortuin, 2009).
Thus, the history of McDonald’s development demonstrates that irrespective of a certain decline in performance, the company remains a global leader in fast food industry demonstrating the trends of monopolistic competition in the global market of fast as it was demonstrated on the example of the global companies McDonalds is competing with global corporations. Thus, it can be concluded that company performs well, and the new wave of innovations introduced by Cantalupo resulted in a steady increase in revenues. In 2005 revenue estimated $19.12 billion, $20.9 billion in 2006, $22.79 billion in 2007, and $23.52 billion in 2008. However, a certain decline due to the global economic crisis was experienced 2009 with estimated revenues of $22.75 billion. On the other hand, the next year revenues renewed with $24.08 billion in 2010, $27.01 billion (2011), $27.57 billion (2012) and $28.11 billion (2013) (Freeman and Auster, 2015). Consequently, it can be argued that Cantalupo’s 5P paradigm of innovations set the basis for the contemporary performance of the company and the current innovation framework.
Analysis of the current innovation strategies of McDonalds
At the present stage, innovative framework of introduced by Catalupo prevails with various new modifications across different departments and functions. The best way to evaluate the current state of innovations in McDonalds is through SWOT and PESTLE analyses of its innovative framework.
SWOT analysis of current innovative framework
The primary strength of the current innovative framework introduced by Cantalupo is its multifaceted nature and that it addresses various aspects of the production process. In this regard, the reformation of the centralised corporate structure towards decentralisation gave more flexibility in decision-making across various branches and also contributed to the facilitation of the brand to the specifics of the local markets. In other words, the approach that brand does not necessarily equal the product demonstrated to be beneficial in various parts of the world (Fortuin, 2009). Another strength of orientation and facilitation of products of the local requirements corresponds to the mutually depend trends of globalisation and regionalisation. The contradictory nature of the two trends is well harmonised by McDonald’s approach to making its product more distinctive on various national markets.
Another strength of current innovative framework is that the brand is globally famous unlike any other in the field, thus, from the marketing perspective, local branches do not have to invest in advertising and promotion, since the on-going “I’m lovin’ it” campaign is global and centralised, outsourcing of marketing function demonstrated to be cost-effective and beneficial for various franchises (Freeman and Auster, 2015). Moreover, the current approach also concentrates on standardisation of services delivery and consequent efficiency across various branches. This is achieved through modernisation of McDonald’s restaurants, the introduction of new technologies, like touchscreen tills, wireless devices and know-hows.
The best advantage is that each franchise can decide on the option that suits their requirements the best. For instance, order-taking for a drive-through in Missouri was outsourced to Colorado which resulted in the improved capacity of taking orders for 30 additional cars per rush hour. Moreover, this initiative resulted in the improvement of order-taking and decrease in errors (Fortuin, 2009).
On the other hand, in terms of weaknesses, decentralisation of franchises resulted in the difficulty of controlling the level of standards across various locations. This was particularly evident in the findings regarding the speed and quality of drive-through service. In this regard, since 2004, the quality of drive-through became primary issue, since the company was listed the last among twenty-five fast food companies by the quality and accuracy of order-taking of drive-through service, while its speed was on the sixth place (Loewe and Dominiquini, 2006). Consequently, the target of 90 seconds order processing and preparation was placed. However, irrespective of establishing this target, the primary challenge is to ensure its fulfilment across various franchises and different restaurants (Harris, 2009).
Regarding opportunities of the current innovative framework, the systematic approach and targeting of customer experience, which is quite changeable due to the different trends on the market and surrounding environment in general, could be seen as a disadvantage of the innovative approach. On the other hand, at present the company is ready for the volatile preferences of its customers and had established Innovative Centre that works with diverse sources of information and predictions of customer preferences, improvement of service, products and technological efficiency (Fortuin, 2009). In this regard, the opportunity is drawn from the open innovation capacities, which are explored by the McDonalds innovation centre that works with numerous stakeholders.
The establishment and the successful performance of this centre are the best indicator of company’s orientation on innovations and adaptation to the changeable demand of the surrounding environment (Leavy, 2010). In its performance, the centre combines three primary corporate strategic competences R&D, which is often combined with testing, idea generation and commercialisation. In terms of idea generation, the sources are diversified, including some visions of corporate management, cooperation with think tanks and researcher in the field, customer surveys and suggestions which are available at each restaurant and employees’ ideas (Loewe and Dominiquini, 2006). Thus, both in-house and external ideas are evaluated and applied.
Although the centre participates in various stages, the primary R&D activities are conducted in the three R&D facilities that are located in the US, Europe and Asia (Fortuin, 2009). The significance of the regional division of R&D facilities is conditioned not only considerations of logistics, but also buy quite distinct requirements of each regional market and different cultural expectations from products and services (Harris, 2009). In terms of commercialisation competence, McDonalds continues to preserve its competitive advantage through low prices on its products achieved through the improvement of cost-efficiency and regionalisation of the supply chain (Fortuin, 2009).
The current innovative framework also benefits from the opportunities for the organisational/functional capabilities. In terms of marketing and sales, the company continues to preserve low prices and have economy options for day-time menus. Moreover, McDonalds advertises various markets across the world within the global campaign “I’m lovin’ it”:
“McDonalds advertises to different segments all over the world. Because of this they need many different marketing plans. They successfully do this by having corporate marketing strategies and franchised marketing strategies. Because they are franchised they have a very good local feel for the market. This leads to marketing strategies that connect with the local customer base. They also market to their broad audience with commercials and advertisements” (Bolognesi, 2012, p. 2).
Marketing also demonstrated to be incredibly functional in emphasising the diversification of healthy options available at McDonald’s restaurants that corresponded to the requirements of the changing surrounding environment. In other words, the marketing team is one of the most successful components of company’s innovation competences, and its regional diversification is an essential asset which should be used to its full extent.
In terms of operational aspect, McDonalds uses all of the opportunities that new technologies, HR management and improvement of skills can offer. In this regard, the company continues to conduct refurbishing and modernisation of its various restaurants according to the most recent fashion, health and safety standards, and food hygiene requirements. It also invested in new technologies that optimise food preparation and consequent time/quality performance (Loewe and Dominiquini, 2006). Moreover, the company is famous for its internal system of promotions and equal opportunities HR. Various schemes of skills improvement, including degrees in hamburger preparation were introduced in order to secure required set of skills and effective contribution of employees to company’s performance (Mattern, 2015).
In terms of financing and legal perspectives, the company uses all available opportunities in these fields. On each market, it makes sure that the performance of its franchises corresponds to the official requirements of the local laws and no violations are made. In this regard, from the strategic perspective, the company demonstrates its eagerness to stay in the local market for a long time and thus to build a functional and well-respected corporate profile (Fortuin, 2009). From the financial perspective, various innovative schemes were applied in different franchises. For instance, in the British McDonalds financial team was given extra duties of evaluation of the previous performance and estimation of the future potential:
“While it is still a priority for accountants to ensure a company’s financial statutory accountant meet legal requirements, dynamic companies such as MacDonald’s have shifted the focus of their accounting and finance function to additionally include the evaluation of past performance and appraisal of future opportunities, helping to ensure the company maximises its strategic capabilities”(Anon., 2008).
PESTLE Analysis of Threats
In terms of threats and the external impact on McDonalds, a brief PESTLE analysis would be beneficial. From the political perspective, due to its popularity and global recognition the company is often perceived as an embodiment of Americanisation and a food reflection of consumerism. In this regard, it often becomes the target for anti-globalist movements and protectionist limitations of the local governments against foreign presence (Harris, 2009). From the economic perspective, McDonald’s global scale of performance makes the company vulnerable to the trends of the global economy. As it was mentioned above, just as most of the global corporations, it felt the impact of the global recession, demonstrated in the decline of revenues in 2008. Moreover, while the company aims to keep the costs of its products low, the inner struggle takes place with labour that requires the increase of salaries and benefits packages. Costs are also added by the implementation of costly advanced technologies. Thus, in terms of the economic perspective, the company has tough decisions to make in order to preserve its performance and competitive advantage on the market (Freeman and Auster, 2015).
From the sociological perspective, one of the primary threats to the company was the trends towards healthy foods and perception of the company as the primary source of child obesity. Although McDonalds managed to diversify its menu and introduce various healthy options, the trend still had an immense impact on its performance. On the European and Asian markets, the competition with healthier and still low-cost restaurants might become of the greatest challenges in the future (Fortuin, 2009). Technological and legal perspectives were already discussed. From the environmental perspective, previously one of the main issues was the impact of waste after the use of McDonald’s products and its contamination of the surrounding environment. Although this issue could be viewed as a constant threat to the performance of any company, McDonalds addressed the issue with due attention.
In terms of environmental considerations, the company introduced a 3-pronged framework for the use of resources: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Most of the packaging used for the products is made from renewable resources. In various countries, franchises recycle used cooking oil for fuel. The company also introduced “One Meal, One Napkin” Campaign which encouraged its customers to use fewer napkins. According to one of the studies, McDonald’s restaurants operating in within Wal-Mart stores saved 170 million napkins which correspond to 497 tons of wood material (Mattern, 2015).
Suggestions regarding the improvement of McDonald’s innovation approach.
From all mentioned above, it can be concluded that at the present stage of its development, McDonald’s innovative framework is very functional and flexible to the changes in the surrounding environment. However, it is still can be improved. Although the target orientation is customer experience, the efficiency and often cost-efficiency as well, is better realised by front-line employees. In this regard, the company would have to pay more attention to the in-house idea cultivation from the current employees, encouraging creativity friendly environment. In other words, operational innovation competence should be further stimulated. At present, the gap is not very substantial. The introduction of creativity stimulating programs within various franchises and introduction of innovation and creativity training modules for employees would be able to cover this gap (Loewe and Dominiquini, 2006).
Further stimulation of creativity and innovative atmosphere within the company is possible through the change of corporate expectations toward innovative and creative thinking, which can be reflected in bonus system based on creativity and consequent efficiency of performance (Harris, 2009). This approach to innovations could also be beneficial in resolving certain labour issues and improvement of the quality of working environment.
Although the company demonstrated to be extremely functional both in terms of corporate and organisational innovation capabilities, its cooperation with external sources of innovative ideas could be improved. In this regard, except working within its three R&D facilities, the company can involve more academic and scientific institutions in the improvement of various aspects of its performance and make links to the resolution of socio-political issues. In this regard, the company can expand its interest in research and development and thus make its public profile more systematic and society beneficial. In other words, such intuitive would not only demonstrate the corporate responsibility of the company but also its commitment to the improvement of human quality of life.
Overall, from all mentioned above it can be concluded that McDonalds company continued to remain the leader in the fast-food industry primary due to its realisation of the necessity of innovation in accommodation of company’s products to the requirements of the surrounding environment. In 2003, the company was beginning to lose its leadership position due to the lack of changes in company’s branding and appearance in the global market. With the introduction of Cantalupo’s 5P approach to innovation and decentralisation of innovative initiative to franchises that gave more flexibility and regional orientation to products, McDonalds began to gain new tempo in its development, gaining global profits across its multinational franchises.
The analysis of the case study demonstrates that the company treated the issue of innovation serious and managed to improve its innovation competences both in terms of corporate and organisational capabilities. Although there are various changes that the company still has to deal with, so far it demonstrated significant flexibility and adaptability to the changes in customer requirements and preferences. In terms of the globalisation-regionalisation dichotomy, the most functional achievement was diversification of McDonald’s products according to the national cultural preferences.
Regarding the recommendations of the potential improvement, the current innovation framework could benefit from further stimulation of creativity and ideas development within the company, especially from the front-line employees who often are more practice and efficiency-oriented than anyone else. The introduction of creativity-oriented training, bonus encouragement programs would improve internal innovations pool. On the other hand, cooperation with external research institutions and academics within a broader spectrum of issues would increase the external source of innovations.
The implications of the suggested recommendations for the company would be in a more systematic approach to innovations and utilisation of all available resources. From the perspective of cost-efficiency, the introduction of training programs and bonus systems would be more beneficial than hiring external consultants since employee know their company and specifics of the job better than anyone else. On the other hand, the wider cooperation with research institutes regarding developmental and society-related issues would result in the development of new society-oriented innovations and also would improvement company’s public profile.
Regarding the future research, it would be largely conditioned by the future performance of McDonalds and its following the current innovative path. On the other hand, ate the present stage, the research can be expanded to the comparative analysis of McDonalds innovation approach and the one of its competitors like Burger King. Such an approach to the research conduct would make analysis more systematic and would demonstrate how each company faces similar and different challenges.
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