The discontinuous nature of innovation

Making sense of the field of innovation is not simple. This is partly because of the range of aspects of innovation that are frequently discussed.

In this interview with Brightidea, the leading provider of innovation management systems, Keith McConnell, of Sara Lee, makes a distinction between innovation and “continuous improvement” in the first 25 seconds, when he says:

“My role is in continuous improvement. And my job is to actually improve the innovation process. So it is both continuous improvement as well as innovation.”

Keith McConnell [Sara Lee] from Brightidea on Vimeo.

#innochat today

Today (13 March 2014), during #innochat, this interesting aspect of innovation is proposed as the starting point for a discussion of the relationship between innovation and kaizen, which is often described as the pursuit of “continuous improvement“. The discussion will be led by our guest Elli St.George Godfrey (@3keyscoach). Continue reading “The discontinuous nature of innovation”

Gordon Edge, remembering a great innovator and leader

Gordon Edge

It was with great sadness that I learned of the recent death of Gordon Edge. These are some of my memories of a great technology innovator and business leader.

For a period of almost three years, during the 1980s, I was privileged to work at PA Technology, near Cambridge. This was a great place to be and formed part of what became known as the “Cambridge Phenomenon”.

Populated by a bunch of bright mavericks, it was led by its founder and chief maverick, Gordon Edge. Dressed immaculately, he spoke quietly, using few words, and what words!

Continue reading “Gordon Edge, remembering a great innovator and leader”

To innovate or not to innovate? That is not the question!

Sooner or later continuous improvement, by any individual or organisation, runs out of steam.

Marching up the slope ahead of us makes sense as an effective way to move onwards and upwards, until we reach the summit. But the summit of what? Most likely it is not the summit, it is just a summit.

There are other summits, and many of them are higher than this summit. Now what?

Discontinuous improvement is called for, to transition across the valley or chasm to the slope of our next, higher challenge. With sufficient resources and expertise, we might be able to build a bridge or to swing or, even, fly across. Without them, we must commit to descending into the valley.

Or, of course, we could just stay where we are at the top of our little summit.

The questions about innovation are not about why we innovate or whether to innovate. They are about what, when, where and how we innovate.

Any riots in the clouds?

Earlier this week, I overheard an interesting and unusual support call being handled at a company which provides business systems. On the face of it, you might enjoy this topical little story, but it might also get you thinking, as it did me, about some rather more substantial issues.

This customer was calling because he wanted to take his business system home! Continue reading “Any riots in the clouds?”

Organising for innovation

Aspects and characteristics

It is unlikely that anyone doubts that the ability of an organisation to innovate is strongly dependent on the nature of that organisation. Its nature can be described by various characteristics (including cultural, behavioural and structural characteristics) and by several aspects (including the static and dynamic aspects) of those characteristics.  Continue reading “Organising for innovation”

Standards: who’d have them?

Whether to standardise?

“If only there were a standard!” How often have we heard this lament about the need for consistency and the benefits of uniformity? Standards free us from decisions and incompatibilities, and are extremely useful in many situations.

On the other hand, there is the sceptical approach: “The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.” So goes the “standard” joky banter about standards; and it continues: “and if you do not like any of those available, then another one will be along next year.” Continue reading “Standards: who’d have them?”

It’s not about the technology! Or is it?

New experiences, behaviours and techniques come along from time to time. As children, at school, there was always the latest “craze” whether it was for conkers or marbles or assegais (remember those?). As adults, at work and at play, we call them innovations, whether they are new materials, techniques, goods, services, fashions or whole new experiences.

“Social”

At the time of writing (early 2011), one significant “craze” is for “social media”, “social networking”, “social” anything, or, even, simply “social”, … as if we were not social or, at least, sociable before! It’s all the rage. Now we (yup, that includes me) are calling it “social communication” and just round the corner, allegedly, is “social commerce”. It’s fun, it’s different, and it’s a substantial change in something or other, … but in what? Continue reading “It’s not about the technology! Or is it?”