Whoever you speak to, innovation is a hot topic in terms of value creation for businesses and governments alike. And it’s becoming more so.
Why not take a walk around the office and take a second look at people innovating?
Count the post-it notes, spreadsheets, emails and access to Web resources such as Google and Wikipedia supporting business processes. You may even see a few folks developing small, niche IT systems by mashing up external Web services.
This is often despite of, or perhaps because of, the grand designs of business applications provided to people to support their goals.

People seem naturally adept at ‘bricolage’ – i.e. using whatever’s around them to innovate and achieve their goals.
It’s interesting that many organisations who are perceived as innovators allow individuals to mass customise their processes – i.e. inviting individual innovation in to the coprorate boundary.
What’s also intriguing I think is the correlation between personal access to IT resource and the ability to innovate.
Consider the increasing individual potential to innovate using IT based on 4 fundamental worlds of personal access to IT resources; mainframe, departmental computing, personal computing and Web. Add in emerging Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 approaches and technologies and we can see a world with bricloage let loose!
The bulk of IT resources under usual CIO control fall into the first 3 worlds. And therefore it’s no surprise to read in the recent Economist survey that only 1 in 3 CIOs feels new technology will add material business value, whereas 2 in 3 business leaders feel this is the case. The business has increasing access to IT resources and so they are innovating more than ever, sometimes without the support of the IT function.
Reminding ourselves that 40 million out of 60 million people in the UK now use Web and email and observing how social and business model are starting to combine, personal innovation potential has never looked so good.
Of course, this can create a corporate governance nightmare.
Can we trust the external IT resources we’re now using to support our business processes? Who made that decision and were they empowered to? Are we entering a stage of ‘random’ IT Outsourcing and Business Process outsourcing?
I think an interesting question is how can organisations tap-in to personal innovation and connect it with organisational innovation and governance.
Perhaps counter-intuitively I think the answer starts with the individual.
For example, individuals being given advice through a Corporate Innovation Policy – similar to the Security Policy we each sign-up to for PC and Web use today – could be a vehicle to offer us all practical guidance on how to bricolage safely to achieve business outcomes through internal and external IT resources.
Add in a trust mechanism so individuals can rate internal and external IT services as they discover and use them, and this people ‘trust innovation network’ could become a highly valuable asset for an organisation.
As well as helping individuals help each other to trust (or not) IT resources, it could help organisational assessment of what innovations are being used, and therefore what it might do to amplify or dampen specific individual innovations in-line with organisational business goals.
Let’s unleash the innovator in all of us – but with corporate guidance to help foster trust and align the individual and the corporate innovator!