CIOs have to take the right steps today to innovate the planet by 2020. These steps include strategic investments in the emerging technologies of today, and research in the technologies of tomorrow. Innovation is creativity applied. While emerging technological paradigms provide a fertile ground for the application of creativity, innovation can (and should) happen even in the elementary techniques used today. Innovation must be part of the bloodstream of the core competencies within an enterprise.
I recently attended the Engineering Open House, at University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus. Imagine the Impossible was the mantra throughout this impressive showcase of engineering disciplines attended by 20,000 visitors. Freshmen and seniors came together to express their passion for engineering, and the application of creativity across 250 exhibits ranging from concrete crushing to non-Newtonian fluid demonstrations. It was easy to relate each exhibit to its practical, real-life application. Here’s a few of my favorites:
1. Hot, delicious, Rice Krispies Treats made by Saurabh, a proud Illini, on an aluminum frying pan levitating over a cooking range charged with a magnetic field. Creativity: The magnetic field in the cooking range induces an opposing magnetic field in the aluminum frying pan, creating a force that allows the frying pan to levitate, and generate heat on the repelling surfaces over time.
2. Jenna and Kelsey, two other Illini, were thumping their fists into a tub full of white fluid — with no concern for splashing eager onlookers. Creativity: Non-Newtonian fluids (like this one made of corn starch and water) won’t splash — challenging Newton's Third Law of Motion. Such fluids could be used for body armor that provides flexibility in motion (as a liquid) and hardens upon impact from a bullet (as a solid).
3. In the Jerry Sanders Design Competition, 26 teams from several universities engineered remotely controlled robots. These robots had to be maneuvered to pick up cones and place them on horizontal pegs. Creativity: No two robots had the same design. Some of the techniques used included vacuum suction, adhesives, mechanical hands, and conveyer belts.
These are the future scientists and thought-leaders, being groomed today in an environment that fosters creativity in the basic application of engineering principles.
Enterprise IT should create such environments to foster innovation within the right business context. This includes incredible creativity, from software developers writing code, application designers innovating with every model, testers applying automation, operations personnel using tools to predict incidents and project managers using innovative techniques to detect early warning signs.
Such innovation within the enterprise bloodstream must be complemented by research in futuristic technologies like the work done in HP Labs. HP Labs is passionate about making research real – driving technology to commercialization in the areas most important to improving the quality of daily life.
Application of creativity in today’s solutions should be the first steps that CIOs take if they want their enterprises to innovate Planet Earth by 2020. Perhaps a corporate field trip to UIUC Engineering Open House is in order?
Think about it. What steps are being taken in your enterprise to institutionalize creativity into the bloodstream? How is the environment in your enterprise fostering innovation? I’d love to hear from you.