Adopt an Innovative Approach to Innovation


One of the problems with innovation is that it's difficult to see beyond the flat earth of the existing business and IT horizon. It's no secret that corporations, government agencies and other organizations typically view business and IT from the inside out. Leaders often mistake new ideas for innovation and, in the process, lose perspective of evolving trends and opportunities.

Alas, conventional brainstorming sessions rarely result in true innovation. That's because the same group of people continually peer into the same universe of stale thinking. It's also exceptionally rare for customer focus groups to yield results because customers don't know what they don't know, and they can't imagine a product that hasn't yet been created.

Although crowdsourcing and social media offer opportunities, most organizations are just beginning to tune into these concepts.

A couple of weeks ago, insurance giant MetLife offered an example of how to break out of the glass bubble. It assembled a collection of top industry players to explore ways to improve the coordination of health care for U.S. military veterans.

The 32-hour TechJam not only tapped leading technologists, it also included high school students. In the end, teams received prizes based on what an expert panel of judges deemed most innovative.

Joe Paiva, chief technology strategist for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs described the process and results as "revolutionary." He noted: "The ideas and technologies that emerged out of the TechJam are a tremendous advancement into our ongoing efforts to improve veteran data management."

There's a takeaway here for IT leaders. It's possible to connect people and explore ideas and concepts in a way that wasn't possible in the past by using in-person gatherings as well as collaboration software and other tools. However, taking innovation to the next level means rethinking how this process takes place and how the enterprise can connect dots more effectively.

Make no mistake, crowdsourcing, social media, big data and other tools are all potential aids. But, in today's increasingly disruptive environment, there's also a need to go completely counterintuitive.

Why not organize an open-source TechJam to address an industry problem or challenge? It might include key customers, partners, employees, consultants, analysts, academic experts and even competitors.

If you really want to take business and technology innovation to the next level, it's critical to think in an innovative way about how to make innovation happen.