Innovation Happens Elsewhere. Now that companies are searching for the way back to innovative value, it’s worthwhile chewing a few introspective minutes on this tiny, little message. Yes, companies can spend their entire IT budget on consolidating the infrastructure, simplifying their systems and even on introducing service-oriented architecture. Thus they become lean, mean and completely flexible and adaptive businesses.
But then – sooner or later, after having celebrated this apparent success enough – the big question will pop up: are we going to do anything useful with all that we created, or what?

Good question too. The answer is bound to be somewhere far outside the company perimeters. Somewhere in the business ecosystem, in this dynamic network of partners, suppliers, clients and competitors there’s innovative value to be found. It will be found in new ways of collaboration, in the real-time exchange of information that was never shared and in the synchronisation of activities and events that were never aligned before.
Want a good example? Or a metaphor? Or even better, both? Have a look at how Apple and Nike are currently collaborating to create a true innovation (yes, this is my second topic on the heroism of Apple within a week, I don’t possess Apple shares and I promise I will write something really, really nasty about Steve Jobs soon, you have to admit though that a significant part of the Cool IT Chronicles are currently being written in Cupertino, California).
Where was I anyway? Ah yes, the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. Put a sensor in your running shoes, connect it to your iPod Nano and start running. The sensor will capture every move and store it in the iPod. Back at home, you synchronise your iPod with your computer and from that moment on it’s Business Analytics all the way. I guess you get the feeling: setting targets, measuring progress, modifying training schema’s – all supported by flashy graphics – there’s a world of possibilities here.
Talking about an Augmented Running Experience. Of course, there will be special Nike-endorsed running songs that you can download from iTunes, just to run these few seconds faster. And there’s an Internet community on its way that will allow people to share their results and even set up running contests: Distributed Running, I just don’t understand how Faith Popcorn could miss on this one.
I don’t know who took the initiative the approach the other, Apple or Nike. And of course, it doesn’t matter because the innovation can only happen elsewhere. This is an exciting example of collaborative innovation and besides the fact that I believe that this will inspire a huge wave of aspirant runners (watch out when you’re outside, you might be run over by iPod-enabled joggers) it is also an excellent metaphor for business strategy. It teaches companies how they can be in real-time control of their business performance, using ‘sensors’, data synchronisation and business analytics. It also shows them the awesome power of real collaboration. And we’re talking about much more than just a metaphor.
Think about it. And if it’s just a bit too much to comprehend, put on your sneakers and pick a few blocks. Don’t forget your sensor.