3 Reasons Innovation Doesn’t Happen In IT

by drjim on October 15, 2009

Innovation In IT Is Hard To Do When There Are Roadblocks In Your Way

Innovation In IT Is Hard To Do When There Are Roadblocks In Your Way

Welcome to the world of overused buzz words! The star of the show these days is “innovation” – everyone wants it, everyone is talking about it, nobody really knows how to get it. IT Leaders find themselves in a situation where if they aren’t careful, they just might make one of three different mistakes that could prevent innovation from happening within their teams…

The Communication Problem

Researchers Rob Cross, Andrew Hargadon, Salvatore Parise, and Robert Thomas have looked into what kills innovation in a department. #1 on their list of culprits is our old friend poor communication.

IT Leaders already know that poor communication is a major problem. However, they may not realize just how much of an impact that it may be having on their attempts to foster innovation in their IT department.

The causes of poor communication can be varied: staff in different physical locations (even working on different floors of the same building can be a hindrance), an organizational structure that may prevent teams from talking to each other, or it could as simple as different IT Leaders being in competition with each other and not being willing to communicate.

The Roadblock Problem

It is my belief that in order to be an effective IT Leader it’s as much who you know as what you know. When it comes to fostering innovation in your IT team it turns out that the same is true.

Within an IT department there are often certain people who become experts about one or more parts of the IT shop. This in turn puts these people in a position of power. Other IT staff must seek them out in order to get the information that they need to do their jobs or to get permission to complete some task that impacts the area under the expert’s control.

Having IT experts is not a bad thing in of itself. However, when these experts are allowed to control the flow of new ideas problems start to arise. Often times these experts will have had experiences that will cloud the way that they see the world. This means that they may quash innovative IT ideas based on their personal experiences that would otherwise benefit the company.

The Insulated Staff Problem

As much as we like to brag about all of the workplace benefits that working in the 21st Century has brought about, our communication networks are still amazingly frail. When IT departments allow staff to remain insulated, innovation can flounder.

A great deal of time and effort goes into setting up the deals that allow IT operations and development to be outsourced to other firms. However, once those deals have been set up, the communication channels between the firms are often left in the hands of just a few people.

This means that any innovation that occurs at either firm will be hard pressed to make it through this narrow communication channel to the other firm. Additionally, if the person who is the conduit leaves the firm, then communication will be damaged or lost.

Final Thoughts

IT Leaders are responsible for fostering and growing innovation within their departments. This job is hard enough without the extra challenge of encountering additional roadblocks to innovation.

Having the ability to recognize the three most common obstacles to a successful innovation program are the first step in dealing with these challenges. Once an IT Leader recognizes that an innovation problem exists, then a solution can start to be crafted.

If you develop the ability to spot these three innovation blockers then you will have found a way to transform yourself from an IT manager into a true leader.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Times are tough all over and a lot of IT Leaders are out pounding the pavement looking for their next position. For some of you it may have been a long time since you last had to do an interview – you are much more used to being on the other side of the table doing the interviewing. Well guess what – no matter how well you prepare, your best efforts may be undone by what your body is secretly telling the interviewer…

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