Is Your Organisation at the Edge of Innovation? It’s Time IT Applied the Final Push

Chris Gabriel, VP of Solutions Management at Logicalis Group, thinks ICT has too often been a limiting factor when it comes to innovation at the organisational edge.  He argues that the time, and the technology, is right for change.

Is your organisation at the edge of innovation?  It’s time IT applied the final push

For the past decade, received wisdom has told us that most innovation within an organisation happens at the edge. But for too many organisations, technology and the processes it underpins have been limiting factors, rather than enablers – a situation that is set to change.

In their 2005 book, The Only Sustainable Edge (Harvard Business Press), John Hagel III and John Seely Brown suggested that innovative companies tap into the knowledge at the edge of their organisations, or even outside of their organisations, to stay competitive.

They predicted that the emergence of China as an industrial powerhouse would signal the end of a model relying on product development teams for all the smart ideas.  They argued that reaching further across your organisation, and beyond its boundaries, to draw on a whole range of insights and ideas would be the key to making innovation truly sustainable.

So where is your innovation edge? Is it in your business units, in customer-facing departments, in the ideas and actions of the people in your organisation who are furthest away from the core, or in your suppliers and, most likely, your customers?

More to the point, even if you know where your innovation edge is, what has your organisation done to tap into it?  Probably not enough – but that’s not necessarily down to a failure to recognise that good ideas often come from unlikely people or places (most great designers are said to have their best ideas in the shower) – and you certainly won’t be alone.

The challenge has been a real difficulty in creating the systems or processes required to capture, communicate, discuss and disseminate edge innovations.

Let’s be honest, email has never been the greatest way of communicating a great idea to lots of people. If one of your brightest talents does have that eureka moment in the shower, are they really going to grab a towel, turn on their corporate laptop, connect to your corporate VPN, write a word document and email it to 20 or so colleagues?  It’s a sure fire way to kill inspiration dead.

Hagel and Brown’s thesis only works if a spirit of innovation can be encouraged and, unfortunately, too many organisations have stood on the edge looking in – held back by IT systems that have stopped them from taking the decisive step.

But things may be about to change.  With the advent of consumer IT, BYOD, social media, collaboration, and a device proliferation that is enabling individuals to connect and collaborate at will, the time for IT to help organisations take the plunge, harnessing innovation at the edge, has arrived – and it must be the CIO’s top priority.

Standing on the edge is always scary. You don’t need to be afraid of heights to recognise the danger of falling 1000 ft with no safety harness or parachute, and big shifts in how people use IT within organisations bring their own dangers.

However, the opportunities that exploiting a new generation’s willingness to connect and collaborate mustn’t be lost.  They are technology risk takers willing to share personal devices with some work time, or fire ideas into collaboration portals to see if others can build on them.  Empowering them with the technology and processes required to tap into their creativity is the key – provided it is the right technology.

In a recent Logicalis survey of UK 13-17 year olds, only 5% said that the loss of email would cause them to abandon technology in favour of pen and paper.  But 54% said taking their mobile phones away would be akin to removing a limb – http://www.uk.logicalis.com/knowledge-share/uk-realtime-generation-report.aspx.

The bottom line is this.  If you want your organisation to tap into its innovative edge, then it’s time to face the future.  The Realtime Generation is on its way – and this generation of innovators doesn’t want a corporate laptop, email or shared drive. It wants the collaborative platforms and devices it has grown up with – mobile devices, social media and so on.

If you think this is all about pandering to a generation of techno-children, think again.  You’re preparing your organisation for a new generation of tech savvy innovators and collaborators – and if your organisation doesn’t, one of your competitors surely will.

Look out for more views from Chris in the weeks to come.  In the meantime, we’ll cover topics such as Business Analytics and Video Collaboration, and bring you a guest contributor’s views on data centre procurement.  Watch this space…

Chris Gabriel

About Chris Gabriel

CTO, Logicalis Group. Chris joined Logicalis UK in January 2006 to lead the business' focus on defining and marketing its core ‘go to market’ solutions propositions.

With 20 years of experience in the ICT industry, Chris has spent his career working within both systems integration organisations and IT vendors (Logicalis, 2e2, SCC, Cabletron Systems), and worked for 10 years in product marketing and market roles in the UK, Europe and United States.

After working as part of the UK management team for the 3 years as UK Marketing and Solutions Director, Chris is became VP of Solutions Management at Logicalis Group, where he was responsible for building a common international solutions and services strategy.
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