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When your enterprise finds itself deep in the midst of major cost-cutting, it's easy to forget about innovation. This is a mistake. In good times and bad, IT must have a solid process through which new ideas can germinate. Innovation is the number-one topic that arises in my numerous conversations with IT leaders. The problem is, after spending a long time in cost-cutting and survival modes, many IT organizations have lost their innovation "muscles," so to speak.
In rebuilding a culture of innovation, you need to assure your staff that, should they spend time on innovative ideas that ultimately fail, this will not reflect poorly on them. Attempts at innovation, by definition, will sometimes lead to failure, and it is important that you view these as opportunities to learn.
Too often, innovation is viewed as an expensive and daunting undertaking. It's seen as something your product-development people do to create products and services that consumers crave. But innovation is essential throughout an organization in order to encourage growth. Capone advises CIOs to "zealously tie projects to business value, and focus on ideas that are competitive differentiators."
If you want to remove roadblocks to innovation in your organization, keep these three key factors in mind:
- Innovation can be small in nature.
- Innovation can be internally as well as externally focused.
- Innovation can be related to processes as well as products and services.
So, how do you generate ideas? By fostering an environment in which all team members are encouraged to contribute ideas. In addition, you'll want to create a repository for new ideas that also houses the vestigial analysis of potential costs, benefits and business drivers behind each idea.
Implementing these four business practices will keep your organization ahead of the competition during bad economic times and position your enterprise to excel as the economy recovers.
Peter High is president of Metis Strategy, a boutique IT-strategy consultancy based in Washington, DC. A contributor to CIO Insight, Peter is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs, and the moderator of the podcast, The Forum on World Class IT. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.