Where Does Innovation Come From?

No matter who you speak to in IT and in most industries, the word innovate is going to come up at some point and most often as something they focus on.


The problem is that a lot of businesses say this without understanding where it comes from.  Now, I won’t presume to tell you the gospel of how to produce innovation on demand.  I will tell you where I’ve found it to occur most often or more precisely the conditions required to breed innovation regularly.

  1. The freedom to try things
  2. The ability to build things
  3. The inspiration to try

The Freedom to Try Things:

You can’t be telling them no.  You can’t be saying it’s not allowed.  You can’t be saying it doesn’t work that way.  You can’t be saying we’ve already tried that.  Your failure, or 20 people before them’s failure, cannot dictate what they’re allowed to look at or try.  You failed.  Let them see and perhaps they’ll see something new, or something you missed.

The Ability to Build Things:

You can have all the ideas in the world, but if you don’t have the ability to try them out, you’ll never even get to attempt 1.  A lot of the time the powers that be will tell you that you have resources available to you, but then not really back that up.  If they do, it’s so slow and half assed that it actually causes you to fail.  I’ve found that being able to at least build a dirty version of the things I’m trying is enough to get some attention and then support.  If you can’t rapidly build, test, fail, redesign, build test, fail, then you’re going to have a hard time.  A major roadblock here is relying on someone to help you.  If you can’t get the help in the areas you lack ability or access, you’re never going to finish something to try it.

The Inspiration to Try:

Anyone trying to innovate has to have a reason to do it.  For me, I’m very lazy.  I’ll often build an automated system to do something just so I don’t have to do that horrible job manually ever again.  The lengths I’ll go to, to make it go away far outweigh the actual effort of having to manually do the task.  When I draw a blank on something new to do, I go and sit with another team that do something different to the usual teams I work with and inevitably I’ll find something that makes me say “Oh my god! I have a much better way to do that…watch this…”.

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