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How to kill innovation

This BusinessWeek article spells out the kind of behavior that kills innovation which I saw at Bell Labs. His example is at a bank, where a new product is killed because nobody else is doing this product.

At Bell Labs in the 1990s I felt that the president spent most of his time alternating between two activities: Canceling projects because "if it was a good idea, why don't we hear that the competition is doing it?" and complaining that the competition had just released a product that we hadn't thought to create. The truth was that we had, but he canceled it for the former reason.

The article recommends a better way to encourage innovation: "we can turn to a third form of logic: abductive logic, the logic of what could be. To use abduction, we need to creatively assemble the disparate experiences and bits of data that seem relevant in order to make an inference--a logical leap--to the best possible conclusion."

As system administrators we often put down extremely new ideas. Centralized file servers were a bad idea, until everyone else was doing it. The web was "too much bandwidth and should be blocked." WiFi can't be made secure. Cloud computing is "untested."

Sometimes I am concerned that we get burnt out and forget that while it is our job to measure risk, we do this to find creative was to mitigate it; lest we find ourselves using it to justify stopping innovation.

Here's a good New Years Resolution: Make an effort to take the logical leap to see what could be.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Technical Management

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2 Comments | Leave a comment

The other problem (one that personally drives me bonkers) is "We tried that before, it failed then." Sometimes it IS a waste of time to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is what's needed to light the fire.

Tom, Michael & I valued your post, and the article you reference. The info is in alignment with our experince as well. I am encouraged to apply more out-of-the-box thinking and execution.
Thanks, Wendy

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