Friday, 27 June 2014


I spent yesterday at Lancaster University with colleagues from other HEIs and Gartner talking about Innovation. Started with a tour round their data centres, normally I'm not a fan of data centre tours, but these were really interesting! Overhead cabling, water cooled, nice and modern. As our main one is in danger of being knocked down as part of the University's development plan, we may have to build a new one soon and move services, so we might get a nice shiny one as well.

I also had a chat with a lizard called Eddie (Eddie Lizzard, get it?) in a Digibooth, but that's another story...

The main part of the day was some presentations and discussions about Innovation, and how we can build it in to the way we run our deaprtments.

One of the fitrst questions we asked, was waht are the barriers to innovation - what stops people doing it? One the main ones is not asking people to innovate, and assuming they will figure it out for themselves. Others include being afraid to fail (innovation requires that you take risks), not rewarding people for innovating, only allowing the "creative types" to innovate and making the innovation process really bureaucratic and slow

Two other key processes which need a lot of attention are motivation and momentum. People have to be motivated to innovate - a clear purpose is needed, not to restrict ideas, but to give some focus that everyone can work towards.

We spent a lot of time discussing whether an "innovation team" was needed, or whether this would give the impression of elitism If we did have an innovation team, should people rotate through it?  Should we give everyone some innovation time, or run competitions for innovative ideas? What about hackathons, innovation jams?  Suggest that people do something different to promote creativity - nice quote from Chip Heath, author of Switch:

"You cannot direct people to each have a brilliant idea every Tuesday at 4 p.m. But you can direct them to do something that is likely to spark that brilliant idea — for example, taking time every Tuesday at 4 p.m. to go to a different department or talk to a potential user of your product."

The reason why we need to innovate? As has been proven many times, if we keep on doing the same things, in the same way, we will quickly become irrelevant.

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