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Innovation: The next big thing

Tim Mendham | April 15, 2013
Nobody knows anything. These were the first words in American novelist, playwright and Academy Award-winning screenwriter William Goldman's book, Adventures in the Screen Trade."

How you put metrics against breaking the rules is a conundrum. The report says, "In more established business markets with even small degrees of organisational inertia or legacy systems, Little Elephant innovations are likely to be disruptive and create angst, if not anger and hostility, a sign that the CIO is probably doing something right."

The way to measure how well you are breaking the rules might then be a "pissed-off meter".

Less-established markets, thankfully, are less likely to create such problems. "CIOs should take the initiative in new markets and channels to educate the business on what is possible, as well as to instigate change... Emerging markets are a fantastic place to test new technology-driven means for generating revenue, or for enhancing the performance of revenue generators."

Whether it's big or small innovations, disruptive, annoying or enhancing, the technology is subservient to the brainpower that can recognise its uses, appreciate how best to implement it and ultimately realise the greatest benefit. Brainpower means people.

Innovative people

Along with the "innovation is our lifeblood" claim is the one about "people are our greatest asset". So not only do you have to worry about the arteries, but also how well you know and benefit from your assets.

In a presentation to the World Computer Congress in September 2012, Dr Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said that "productivity comes from innovation" and that "ICT workers contribute significantly more to productivity than non-ICT workers".

That could be because of the ubiquitous nature of ICT within every organisation, so ICT workers supply the tools that virtually all non-ICT workers use and thus underpins the latter's productivity.

As with all workers, getting your highly productive ICT workers to be more innovative must go beyond the suggestion box.

A 2010 Gartner report, Determining How and Where Innovation Fits into Your IT Strategy, says, "The people aspect of IT strategy is arguably the most important piece of the supply section of IT strategy that ensures innovation is baked in. Innovation should be reflected in the choice of people, the work they are expected to perform and the way their time is managed. IT should ensure that the skill mix includes key innovation skills, such as creative thinking, the ability to conduct strategic experiments, a business-focused outlook, and familiarity with innovation concepts and tools.

"IT should also ensure that people are managed so that they have the time and inclination to innovate. This means instituting management practices around how people should divide their time between ongoing operations and future value creation. It also means ensuring that the performance evaluations reflect a focus on IT contribution to business innovation."

 

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