Posted onin Leadership/Management
40 years ago, there were public phone booths dotting the landscape for anyone on the move. Then suddenly, phones lost those physical tethers and morphed. Recently, an engineer accidently forgot his top secret next gen iPhone prototype at a public place, allowing news of its new features to be leaked to the press. It’s the ever expanding array of features that allow these smart phones to transcend their humble heritage as simple voice carriers. Mobile phones are true technological innovations that have fundamentally changed how we live and do business.
So, where does life changing innovation on a par with the mobile phone revolution come from? Is it customer driven? How do we innovate? Bryan Sivak, CTO of Washington DC, defines innovation as something original, totally new, and beyond incremental changes. As for the role of customers, he questions that anyone can always fully understand what they need, before it exists. While innovation should be something that people will want to use. It should not be constrained by the fickle desires and whims of customers who may have a narrow agenda, otherwise innovators may never break out of the box (Can IT push innovation beyond all customer expectation? August 11, 2010 5:15-5:56).
Because innovation deals with unknowns, risk of failure has to be acceptable. Innovators need to try numerous things, let what fails fail, but learn from that failure and move on. (7:25 – 8:23) Bryan is right in line with IBM’s Tom Watson, who once said: “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” Bryan’s innovation IT utilizes agile methods to quickly develop a prototype and baseline, get it up, look for problems, and get feedback. (9:25 – 11:37)
Acknowledging that government IT and corporate IT do have differences, Bryan also noted that ROI on an innovation need not be tangible or provide cash flow. Innovation could be a completely different or more efficient way to provide services. If such an innovation saves effort that may mean it also saves money, a result that can be quantified (18:53 – 19:40). The discussion also covered triggers for innovation. Ultimately, innovation fails if it is tech for Tech’s sake. It should be tech for a purpose (40:40 – 40:46).
Question for our bloggers: How would YOU go about encouraging innovation in your IT?