Last week I spent a day talking about innovation with a bunch of people from various parts of my organisation. It was a fascinating day, not least because I got to hear what other people think innovation is, and where it comes from.
There’s no ‘right’ answer to this and there are many ways to get to an innovative solution to problems. However my favourite explanation, and the one I see happening most often, is the ‘edge effect’. This is based on an ecological principle, and describes what happens when two ecologies meet. A great deal of diversification and evolution happens in these places in order to cope with the conjunction of the different worlds.
IT has it’s own edge effect, which I kind of blogged about last year, and this is the rise of ‘shadow IT’, which tends to happen when corporate IT can’t meet the dynamic demands of evolving organisations. This can often be where customers (one ecology) demand services from the organisation (another ecology) which then needs to react quickly to maintain a market position. Monolithic central IT, with all the baggage of prior investment and governance, cannot react in the timescales needed by the new ecology. It’s not only IT that suffers these issues, of course. Most business processes are challenged by these edge effects, and sometimes organisations choose to withdraw completely from the interaction rather than challenge their internal models. This isn’t always a bad thing, but in extreme cases can lead to the organisation becoming irrelevant, and eventually extinct.
The video above is musician Yo-Yo Ma talking about the edge effect, and how it can be used to encourage collaboration and mutual success. I take the view that if innovation can be described and predicted in such an elegant way, it must have a lot going for it. Hope you enjoy it.