Innovation Vs Technology
Published on 24 Feb 2017
After years of experience and talking with many senior executives from various sectors and industries from around the globe and various cultures, we’ve repeatedly found out that decision processes used to adopt a new method, framework and platform or business transformation outcome were both slow and unsatisfactory.
In most cases, we found that when a business attempted to make a business improvement or try to digitalise how they operate, the normal most common step was to handover or diverted to CIO or the IT Manager and allow them to find a solution or software.
I would like to share few historical innovation references to shed some lights on the importance of previous discoveries on the way we live and operates today:
- Prior to 1752, candles were the only source of light.
- In 1752, Ben Franklin conducted an experiment with a kite, a key, and a storm. This simply proved that lightning and tiny electric sparks were the same thing.
- Italian physicist Alessandro Volta discovered that chemical reactions could produce electricity, and in 1800 he constructed the voltaic pile (an early electric battery) that produced a steady electric current, and so he was the first person to create a steady flow of electrical charge.
- In 1831 continuous electricity became viable, when Michael Faraday created the technology, in the form of an electric dynamo (a crude power generator), which solved the problem of generating electric current in an ongoing and practical way.
- This opened the door to American, Thomas Edison and British scientist Joseph Swan who each invented the incandescent filament light bulb in their respective countries in about 1878. Previously, light bulbs had been invented by others, but the incandescent bulb was the first practical bulb that would light for hours on end.
One can see that innovation doesn’t actually have anything to do with technology. In those references, there was a need for a solution to move from candle to sustained light, and the need for this solution motivated and drove the invention of electricity.
Today, in order to digitalise your business and kick off a true digital transformation, each business unit needs to think freely, with no control or limitations imposed on them based on current available technology.
Technology is an enabler and if businesses continue to rely solely on technology there will be no business innovation or improvement from current state because the bar is currently set by technology companies and they are comfortable with that for obvious reasons. Business are forced to settle for what’s available or what’s possible based on technology limitations. From time to time big technology companies will acquire a smaller innovative company to expand their portfolio and to increase their market share driven by profit and loss, dividends, shareholders and R&D becomes a low priority in order to save costs.
The business should set the bar by thinking first and foremost of what they need to make major transformation not what technology could offer with current technology limitation. Business needs to lead with out of the box thinking to reach true innovation. Furthermore, it will force technology companies to catch-up and establish true R&D to align to business challenges, agility and flexibility.
The classic example: IT sends their BA (Business Analyst) to kick off a project with traditional questions “What do you need?” and “Tell me more about your requirements.” (This is more like a reporter in a news agency!! However, current industry expectation dictates that this way is the norm.)
The BA will then translate his understanding of the business needs to an internal team, like a developer and architect, who will then design and build a solution based on what they interpreted to be the business needs.
The solution team starts to search for a suitable technology solution to make it fit to the presumed business requirements. After multiple variations and battling back and forth, the business, in the end, think they are getting something that looks like what they have asked for.
Often the business ends up not adopting the proposed solution, because the vision and expected outcome has not been translated by IT/current technology, mostly because the industry is still adopting the traditional approach which was developed more than 20 years ago.
This ultimately discourages the business from attempting and proposing new initiatives for their business transformation and innovation.
The IT and Business alignment effort is the foundation to bridging the gaps, increasing awareness and collaboration this will ensure that business digital transformation initiatives’ achieve successful results.
Imagine in 1752 when Ben Franklin began his early experiment to search for electricity, if he had to deal with the above challenges and had been told of all the technology limitations ahead of him, we would have had no innovation and we would still be using candles until now, as a main source of light.
Innovation, is when you think of how to improve and transform your current state without prior limitation.
The key is: To think about the result (outcome) then reverse engineer how you can get there.
We called it a vision.
- 1-5 Electricity Forum n.d, accessed 20 Feb 2017 (http://www.electricityforum.com/who-discovered-electricity.html)
- 1-5 Wikipedia: Electricity 2017, accessed 20 Feb 2017 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity)