‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’… Albert Einstein really knew his stuff.
The adoption of standards, specifically Web standards, across the IT industry has been as defining a change to business IT as the mainframe, the departmental computer and the PC.
There are many other defining changes with Web 2.0 promising more (although as a friend recently said to me commenting on a Web 2.0 article on silicon – ‘the only thing that’s being mashed-up here are the buzzwords’).
Each of these defining changes is an innovation in its own right – i.e. doing something differently which adds more value than doing something in the usual way.
But from the point of view of a business applying the IT – applied innovation – these defining changes have often resulted in disruptive change rather than managed change – especially to established businesses which have already deployed the previous IT.

It’s almost reverse innovation – something differently is happening to us and we’re doing our best to apply our business as usual to it but we can’t stop the change. And what we get is some benefit (eventually) but a whole load of IT complexity and additional cost (as a long term legacy).
So what are the barriers to applying technology innovation and gaining significant value rather than having it applied to us and adding yet more IT complexity?
From recent Web 2.0 work and discussion with folks I think we can see 3 keys to unlocking applied innovation:
1. Unlearning learnt behaviours – our individual ‘winning formulas’, while at the same time;
2. Applying known leading practices – i.e. your useful learnt behaviours which mean you can implement the innovation and take your corporate with you, and;
3. Having a real understanding of possibilities of mature and emerging technology and most importantly being able to articulate such possibilities to the folks struggling with 1. and 2.
If we imagine 3 slider controls with to the left being good and to the right being not so good, any one slider to the right and applied innovation seems to fail.
Further, we can see similar patterns of applied innovation failure whether the organisation is innovation positive or innovation negative.
If positive, Gartner’s hype cycle seems to apply (big promises followed by that hard slog out of the ‘trough of disillusionment’ – I love that phrase). If negative, we often see a sequence of disbelief, objection, ‘we’re already doing this anyway’, copying and (after a long time and with added complexity and cost) partial adoption. In both cases the technology innovation often isn’t being applied effectively in mature organisations.
I don’t like using the overworked ‘business / IT interface’ term – but working on this really holds true if we’re going to keep all 3 sliders to the left. Because in all of this, if we are to apply effectively the innovation of Web standards and the promise of Web 2.0 – which means doing something differently which adds value – we need to create new business IT understanding (an innovation in its own right!). Only through this can we enrol each other in doing something differently which can lead to successful execution. ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them’ – and right now there aren’t any standards for that.