Author: Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance technology journalist with a specialist focus on the development and management of enterprise software applications and services. He has spent the last twenty years in a variety of technology-focused media roles and as such is fully conversant with the wider technology.
We can just buy in innovation these days, right? After all, the global economy is so connected and automated that when we want new ideas we can just plug into the so-called ‘ideation’-centric consultancy services we need to open up new markets, right? Failing that, we can just move to acquire innovative new products and …
Rewiring the enterprise culture
In more basic terms, we can suggest that innovation is all about rewiring enterprise culture and breaking apart our outdated systems of old. To do this rewiring, we need to embrace the following nine points:
- A deindustrialisation of archaic working practices.
2. A decoupling of legacy IT systems to create interoperable agility.
3. A decentralisation of compute power across the enterprise to enable new mobile empowerment.
4. A defragmentation of data inside the business, so that we can unlock hidden value.
5. A demystification and deregulation of corporate processes, so that innovation can happen anywhere inside the business at any time.
6. A delimitation on corporate structure, so that all ideas are heard and rewarded on the basis of an operational meritocracy, and not based on rank or seniority.
7. A new demarcation on defined product or service, so that the business can spin towards new markets that might be about to open up.
8. A decentralisation of R&D into new types of solutions streams.
9. A clearer delineation on where the business can move next, if it wants to.
Does the ‘de’ theme still appear hidden in the list above or does it come across as painfully obvious to see for all? We hope it’s clear. Only by the constrictions of language must we stop short of putting dewiring in that list – it has be rewiring for now, until ‘dewiring’ enters the Oxford English Dictionary.
The move to the new derestricted rewired enterprise does not happen overnight. Management needs to open up to ideation from every department and from every employee if point 6 is to hold true. The problem is that it is the management’s responsibility to first dissolve a degree of its own control, so that this new freedom can open up.
One ‘d’ that remains intact is the march towards digitisation of business. We know that software runs the world and that software runs businesses. The need to rewire business architectures, so that firms will emerge as digital businesses of the future is a process already underway in many sectors.
Freedom to fail (fast or slow)
Industry analysts are fond of the expression ‘fail fast, fail often’. In other words, it’s okay to try out new things and not every new idea will make it to fully developed production or deployment. While that might be slightly conceptual in nature for some, the need for a demystification and deregulation of corporate processes, so that innovation can happen anywhere inside the business at any time (point 5), cannot be overstated.
So how does this shift in innovation play out in practice? Take a look at point 8 again. We need to engage in a redirection of R&D into new types of solutions streams. This means that firms will need to open up to workers with skills in new disciplines. This shift happens not just in traditional ‘heavy’ industries but right across through into every type of manufacturing. Logically, it also spans into every level of the services sector.
Innovation in the sharing economy
It’s a tired and worn out presentation tactic, but many firms will start off conference keynotes by reminding us that the world’s largest taxi company (Uber) has no taxis or that the world’s largest hotel chain (Airbnb) has no hotels. The scale of the digitisation-driven disruption that this new ‘sharing economy’ has brought is hard to overstate. One again, it’s all about rewiring for the new connected platforms that we have come to adopt and embrace both as consumers and as business people.
So no, you can’t just ‘make’ innovation happen, but you can decentralise your core approach to R&D and start to work down our nine-point list. Start at point 1 or 9, or 7 and 2 combined with an element of 4. The whole point is freedom.