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Using "vuja de" to be innovative and creating a dynamic IT environment: Part One

In a recent conversation with a group of executives, I stated "these are very tough times, but the technology is there to be revolutionary and make great things happen for the business.  I told them that they just need to be that revolutionary person to drive change.” Over the past week I’ve had a couple of comments online and more offline directly to me around innovation. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on being innovative and some things that you can do to help push the “innovation envelope” and create a dynamic IT environment.Blog

I’ve been a noticing a lot recently that companies are only looking at what is going on today in their environments, instead of stepping back and getting a fresh perspective. Let’s face it. Some, if not most, companies have a kind of tunnel vision. They chase the same opportunities that everyone else is chasing; they miss the same opportunities that everyone else is missing. It’s the companies that see a different game that win big.

The most important question for innovators today is: What do you see that the competition doesn't see? In the book “The Art of Innovation”, Tom Kelley gets a term from George Carlin; vuja dé; what does this mean? It means taking a look at something familiar with a new perspective as if you had never seen it before, and with that new perspective developing a new line of sight into the future.

Now I have to make this statement as it relates to IT. This doesn’t mean that you need to be on the bleeding edge, and maybe you don't have the resources to invest in multiple areas of technology. Still, you need to ask yourself the question: What do we need to focus on to ensure the future readiness of your own IT organization and to enable the businesses we support to go forward?

When it comes to innovation in IT, I’ve seen clients actually form small teams within their IT departments that only focus on the future of technology. They work closely with their counterparts on the business solutions side to ensure that the technology will meet the business requirements and spur further productivity gains and competitive advantage. I call this planning today for tomorrow’s new technology.

This begs the question, “how far do you look into the future?”

Well the quick answer is it depends. It depends on the role of your IT department in your company. I know that in some industries I’ve been engaged with can be at a serious competitive disadvantage if IT doesn’t stay on the leading edge. These are the companies that are using radical innovation to alter industry economics and redefining for competitive advantage. The most creative executives I’ve met don’t aspire to learn from the “best in class” in their industry—especially when the best in class aren’t all that great. They aspire to learn from companies far outside their field as a way to shake things up and make real change.

One of the ways that I think IT departments and businesses in general can be innovative is to look again with a fresh perspective to a concept that has been around for a while; dynamic IT, and what this strategy can do for them around competitive advantage, et cetera.

There has been a lot of debate over the last few years whether IT “matters”. I’ve seen cases where there is not much debate in the minds of some business executives, who recognize that IT is critical to the execution of business strategy. This isn’t to say that Mr. Carr is wrong; he is most definitely on target with his theories and statements, but many business strategies – including collaborative product development, consumer-driven supply chain, and multi-tiered channel management and customer service – are actually impossible to execute without the support of underlying apps, data repositories and workflow systems, that may not be a fit for “the cloud”.

What needs to be on the mind of every executive is a new, more innovative way to make IT dynamic and create that competitive advantage. Some companies are creating that “dynamic IT” with application, server and storage virtualization technologies, but that is probably very innovative for the majority of some companies out there. Incremental innovation is better than no innovation at all I say, but I’ve said it before in an increasingly nonlinear world, only nonlinear ideas are likely to create competitive advantage.

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