Monday, 16 February 2009

Being more innovative about innovation?

About 15 years ago I did a survey on innovation.  Like a lot of surveys on innovation it re-uncovered the obvious.  We all think innovation is a good idea, wish we did more of it, and don't know how to institutionalise it without killing it.  Yawn.

But, we also highlighted that in Britain we have a peculiar view of innovation.  We tend to think of it as being:
  • technology-based
  • revolutionary not evolutionary
  • expensive
  • large scale.
Conversely, other geographies (and at that time Japan in particular) think of innovation as being probably not technology-based; evolutionary / incremental; potentially low cost; and often small scale.

I wondered last week if this was one of the factors behind a recent ITPRO report that non-IT execs value IT but don't see it as a source of innovation.  Rather than just concluding as the report does that this means the IT function still lacks strategic clout (sigh), it could mean that either non-IT execs, CIOs, or both are looking for innovation in the wrong place - in technology alone.  

I remember, as we did seminars about this research, one VC participant talking about how what he especially looked for was businesses that took an idea proven in one domain, and applied it to a new one.  Sounds innovative to me.  But, note, not a new idea per se in sight - just a new context.

So, how about we all try this for a few months: 
  • stop looking for new ideas, technologies, etc
  • start looking for new contexts in which we can apply ideas already shown to work
Might even align with cost conscious times?


JohnG said...

perfect opportunity for me to launch my washing machine boil in the bag cookbook ;-)

Nick Smith said...

... and I do have friends who cook really good salmon in their dishwasher