The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

If it is innovative, you probably will need to spell it out

innovation.pngAs I mentioned previously, I’ve been in a number of conversations about innovation lately. One thing that surprises me is that so often, in these innovation discussions, teams fail to take into account the behavioral issues and the need to formally communicate what will be different, how it will be measured and why (this is a place where gamification can help).

 

After spending time ‘heads down’ working on an innovative effort, we somehow assume that everyone else will have the same contextual understanding. If the idea or solution is really innovative, I’d bet the rest of the world does not have that same view. Taking the step back to view it from others perspective can be quite difficult. You’ll need to spell out how others will benefit, what will be expected of their behavior and what the relationship is of the innovation in the bigger plan.

 

I was in a discussion of strategic organizational planning for a service organization and they had the same issues. It is not just about having an organizational scope and mission statement.

The need for an innovative look at innovation efforts

innovation unlock.pngI’ve been in a number of discussion lately looking at innovation activities. In today’s dynamic business environment, the status quo is riskier than changing – sometimes it may not matter which direction you move, as long as you’re not standing still.

 

I am a big advocate for gamification, but most of these efforts are based on a bottoms-up approach that tries to leverage the ‘intelligence of the crowd’. Some interesting things definitely do come out of these efforts, but rarely are they directed on what is really needed. If 5% can be implemented, you’re doing great with these approaches.

 

That is where top down approaches to innovation come into play. They try to focus the innovation flow around a specific concern or issue. I used the term flow, because it’s happening, whether we tap into it or not – innovation is just part of being human. Top down in combination with a bottoms-up approach are more effective. Yet – they’re not effective enough.

 

I have figured out a few things (that are probably obvious to most):

  • Innovation needs a strategic focus. At the same time, the chance of getting it right the first time is slim, so an approach needs to be both strategic and agile (at the same time).
  • Innovation needs to be part of the mindset of the people involved. For many organizations, innovation doesn't feature anywhere in their plans and that’s a shame. This can be true for entrepreneurial organizations as well as large corporations. I mentioned strategic importance of innovation, yet culture eats strategy for lunch.
  • If you want to grow, you need to find a way of embedding innovation in your strategic priorities – and that means investment. It also needs to be focused on what you do and how you do it. This is one of the most frustration parts of working in the IT space. We think that being innovative in IT is something that should be recognized by the rest of the business. In many ways, they pay us (particularly service organizations) so they don’t need to see it at all – let alone view it as innovative.
  • Innovation efforts need to be measurable. Just because ideas are new, doesn’t mean there won’t be a ruler to measure progress. There will be one, why not plan on it.

A while back I mentioned that one of the first laws of technical leadership is “don’t discourage them”. The same can be true about the approach to innovation. At the same time, innovation efforts need to be focused on outcomes -- we actually need to do something and not just think about it.

 

I have come to the conclusion that we need a more innovative approach to innovation, since the whole concept is full of conflicts. One of the first things that is probably always true though is the need to develop a common understanding and definition of innovation, since it can mean so much to so many .

Serious gaming that takes nerve…

neuron.pngEarlier this month I saw an article in Popular Science: Gamers Reveal Inner Workings of the Eye. Since I have an interest in gamification, I dug in a bit more. It turns out there was a story in May on NPR morning edition Eyewire: A Computer Game to Map the Eye that covered the same concept.

 

Eyewire is an example of a serious game that tackles a real problem using gaming techniques. It is not your typical business gamification implementation but an example non-the-less. To play the game, he players have to pick out specific cells in pictures of tissue the retina and color them in.

 

“Each player gets a high resolution picture of a different section of the retina to color. The trick to scoring point in the game is to only color the parts of the image that are nerve cells. This is something that's surprisingly difficult and humans are actually better at it than computers.”

 

Over 130,000 people from 145 countries have played the game so it must be both challenging and rewarding.

 

When we look at the abundance of IT capability and the wealth of information being generated by the Internet of Things, we are likely to see whole new levels of gamification techniques come into play, as we try to dig deeper for patterns and understanding or gather and inject insight right at the time decisions are being made.

Metrics usage in an agile approach

change.pngA couple of months ago, I did a post on: The supply and demand issues of governance, including issues that cause organizations to be blindsided by events.

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this a bit more but from the metrics side -- defining and collecting the leading and lagging indicators of change associated with governance. There is quite a bit of material on this concept, but this link to a definition on leading indicators is focused on economic leading indicators. The concepts for business processes are similar.

 

Leading indicators show progress, lagging indicators confirm completion (examples on this perspective made me dig up a post I did in 2009 about measuring cloud adoption). Most organization’s processes only have lagging indicators. These are metrics that identify we’ve hit milestones… This can allow efforts to get fairly far down a path before they can do course corrections. More predictive approaches are possible and needed to adapt to this changing approach to business.

 

When I look at applying gamification, I usually come up with numerous leading indicators since gamification is about influencing the work in progress. When approaching change, look for items that show improvement or change and not just validation of achievement.

Preventing the IoT from being the Oort cloud of the enterprise

riding comet.pngLast month, IEEE Spectrum had an article on how Most Technologists Upbeat About Future Internet of Things and I am optimistic as well --do you really think being down about it will prevent it from happening? I mentioned that ubiquitous power is a prerequisite for the IoT to really take off, at least for some applications.

 

On the same day I gave an IoT intro presentation I was in an exchange with CIOs about rogue clouds, in the process I made a joke pointing out that rogue clouds are the Oort cloud of IT - an area we don’t pay any attention to until something is about to impact our business.

 

There are a number of challenges for technologist to overcome. For every positive aspect, there is a negative trap to fall into and be prevented or at least understood.

 

Challenge

Positive

Negative

Privacy/Security

A view into what is actually going on

Passive oversharing

Identity

Knowing what is what

Device ‘identity’ mistaken for true identity- people become a network address

Efficiency

Speed

Unemployment

Decisions

Automation takes latency out

Loss of freedom and understanding, if automation becomes just another legacy system

Culture

Gamification

Big Brother and data bias

 

What are some of the other issues that have both positive and negative dimensions??

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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