Innovation Series: To innovate or not to innovate: That is the question
By Ben Rothke, Senior Security Consultant, BT Global Services
As part of a series on SecureThinking, we’ve recently focused on innovation. We’ve discussed and debated the pros and cons of innovation within large multinationals. Yesterday, we examined innovation in higher education. David Escalante, Director of Computer Policy & Security at Boston College, asked if innovation doesn’t occur in Higher Education, then where else would it occur?
Now that we understand why universities must innovate, we’ve asked our expert, Ben Rothke, what considerations must be in place when innovating. Here is his perspective on the topic:
If Hamlet had been a CIO, rather than considering “to be or not to be,” he would have pondered — “To innovate or not to innovate: that is the question.”
The truth is that innovation can be fickle. On one side, “he who hesitates is lost.” On the other hand, “Good things come to those who wait.”
When it comes to technology, should a university be at the leading edge of innovation? Or settle for the status quo at the trailing edge? Ultimately, the answer is the proverbial it depends.
On the other side of the spectrum are the thousands of smaller schools, with reduced budgets and less cutting-edge requirements. For those institutions to be overly innovative is to tread in waters often far too deep for them.
Innovation for the sake of innovation is obviously foolish. As Gartner notes in Five Myths of Innovation, few organizations truly understand the strategic and operational commitment required to obtain ongoing value from innovation. A university therefore needs understanding and commitment before innovating, as opposed to far too many who take a just do it approach.
In some ways, innovation is like a dog — really cute (with the exception of poodles), but requiring significant effort.
Some of Gartner’s key findings are:
- Many are confused about innovation – what it is, what it can do and whether it can or should be formally managed
- Even those considered to be highly innovative struggle to maintain a consistent and ongoing level of innovation
- An accelerated pace of business change is compounding the problem of how to address the innovation imperative
With that, universities (and for that matter, all firms) should take the following recommendations to heart:
- Create an imperative for innovation and establish the explicit link to revenue growth, operational restructuring or business model change
- Define processes and metrics to encourage innovation that extends beyond the boundary of a centralized innovation or R&D organization
- Develop processes to tap into outside sources of innovation
- Apply technology within the framework of a structured problem-solving process to encourage participation and enhance ideas
- Recognize the diverse roles required to sustain innovation and reward people for performing them
- Cultivate the capability for continuous innovation to grow and transform the business and to stay aware of external threats and opportunities
Digest this: innovative schools need to be inherently innovative to make innovation work — the point being that there is no magic pixie dust to make innovation work. You need to understand what innovation is and how to make it work.
Innovation is not a discrete set of functions within a specific unit. Rather, it must be university wide. Innovation requires complete integration into all processes, technologies, people, structure, management, and direction.
Any university that desires to develop innovation as part of its DNA needs to create an overreaching culture where innovation can extend into every process and every staff member.
Innovation is a significant endeavor. For those who are committed, innovation is a game changer. For those who are not, they are like the Detroit Lions, perennial losers.