Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Salt of Innovation

It was the usual Sunday morning for me, when my beloved wife brought a bowl of tomato soup for me. It took one sip for me to realize that the taste is different and I couldn’t resist asking her “This isn’t that sour, the taste is different, what did you do?” She smiled, as she was curiously waiting for my response, and said “I did something different today, I removed the seeds from boiled tomatoes before processing, those cause soup a bit sour many times”. “Ohh..that’s good, how did you know that?” I asked curiously taking few tasty sips. She turned back, started stepping towards kitchen, saying “You know, I tried doing something different….”

Her grinning reply made me thinking about “Innovation” to bring difference. I straight forward imagined me as the client and she as the solution provider. Although her deliveries are always on time (she always brings the soup on time every Sunday morning), this time she did something innovative, which as a client I never expected but certainly needed. I always felt it a bit sour, but assumed that being tomato it has to be sour. She knew the pain area and did something innovative, something out-of-the-box, and the client (me) was over gladdened. And her innovation, not only made me happy, but adds lot of excitement and difference in her, otherwise mundane, job.

I tried but failed to find words to define “innovation” here, but it is certainly something which drives the people changing the orthodox way of thinking and doing their day-to-day job. To correlate it to IT industry, it’s more about bringing something which adds value to clients, end customers and to everyone who avails your services or products. It’s about thinking and doing things, which may be unarticulated or not explicitly mentioned.

So, how can an individual bring more innovation and value addition through his/her work?

Make it a habit not an occasional show

Innovation comes within yourself. It can nether be taught nor get forcefully done, however it can be encouraged and guided. Once you realized the importance of it, have it part of your day-to-day work. Think different, think innovative and think out-of-box. Soon, you will realize that you become habitual of innovative thinking and then it would change your world.

Know the hidden pain areas

It’s good to get the things done expected from you but it’s even better to do things needed from you. Every business, every client and every solution has some hidden pain areas. The innovation starts with realizing and addressing those pains and needs. Fitting yourself into clients, customer’s shoes, and a much needed understanding of business and domain, help you identifying those pain areas.

Innovation doesn’t mean revamping the whole

Working with my team, on many occasions, I realized that people believe that throwing the existing system out and designing new, is an innovative idea. Yes it may be in certain cases, it’s not most of the time. Innovative approach gets more weightage when coupled with feasible and viable solutions. Innovation needn’t to be always larger in picture, in fact many a times it’s bunch of small things combined to make bigger difference.

Time constraints

One of the biggest hurdles with innovation being the extra time required for it, and in many scenarios that extra time is either not permitted or not feasible. My personal experience says you can always think innovative, but the implementation may have to be organized and planned cautiously. On many occasions, we didn’t get sufficient time to showcase or implement our innovative ideas, which we noted down and presented/implemented in more planned manner.

Innovation won’t always appreciated

One of the ironies with innovative thinking is that it not always recognized at other end. Working on so many projects in past, I realized that there is healthy chance of your innovative idea being rejected atleast first time. But then most of the times it is recognized at some later stage. Your innovative thinking is your intellectual property and should not depend on whether others are innovative or not.

Innovation is a way of thinking and one of the highest qualities of life. All changes in this world are result of innovative thinking. All IT solutions are also result of someone’s innovative thinking at some point of time. Innovation brings changes not only for your clients, customers but also in your own life. Remember, only live fish can swim against the flow.

“Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress” ...Ted Levitt