Thursday, 20 October 2011


There's a lot of sessions on innovation this year. Been to a couple, both very different.
Yesterday it was the CIO of NASA, and she talked mainly about the ecosystem you need to foster and encourage innovation. She suggested that innovation was far likelier to come from being disciplined than from being creative, and was not about creating a hot new product but more about using things in a different way. Innovation is not the same as inventing. Things get invented, and you innovate with them.

Inovators: Believe that anything is possible, ignore ridicule and focus on outcomes, bridge the finite world of the possible with the infinite, are resilient, take risks, are inspired to change the status quo and more importantly, are little bit crazy.

Good example of an invention which caused massive innovation - the telephone. When it was invented people thought it was an amazing invention but who would ever want to use one. A scientific toy. No practical need for it.
Now more phones than people in the US. Invention of the phone has had a social impact. Revolutionised business, banking, journalism. Changed society and infrastructure. Similar to what's happening now with social media.

The ecosystem for innovation needs to be diverse. For any problem there exists a perspective that makes it easy to grasp a solution. There's no perspective that's better than another
Teams of problem solvers do better when the diversity of perspectives is great than  the overall ability of individual team members. Diversity trumps ability

What do you do about people who try and block innovation? Remember that the brakes on a car were invented to make it go faster, not slower. We need to use the brakes in our organisations to speed up innovation by bringing extremes together to solve problems. Analyse the driving forces, both pros and cons for a situation.

Technology is increasingly being seen as a strategic asset, not just an operational one, and in an increasingly competitive business environment, innovation will be key to survival.

The second innovation talk was by the US CTO and special adviser to President Obama. A tiny bit evangelical, he shouted at us for an hour, about how great the US was, and how much better it could be with more innovation. He suggested that technical trends are enabling us to be more innovative. Cloud computing and mobility are unlocking the potential for innovation. Nearly all major Internet breakthroughs have come from college campuses, and we now need to find those new killer apps. There was a lot more, but mainly about the US Education system.

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