It’s interesting that the two comments from Phil and Jonathan on my lat post are both from developers. People who’s very job is to ‘innovate’. We’re all told we must innovate, in everything that we do. If you develop you must write innovative code. If you’re creative (thanks Frank) you must create in an innovative way, and importantly if you’re a manager you must innovate your management.
It’s this last one that’s interesting. As developers and people who’s very essence of being is about doing new things, we’ve (developers & creatives) been hearing the innovation mantra for quite few years. But management, well that’s a bit more recent.
Whilst we think the principles of Research & Development are those of innovation, managers, finance and marketing don’t see it that way. What managers see when they hear R&D is 10% of their budget going away, to a team of people, disconnected from the organisation, who are working on stuff that will have an impact in the medium term (if they’re lucky) and the long term more probably.
So the term ‘innovation’ simply becomes (as my boss put it) the lens through which we view the basic tenants of R&D. R&D by it’s very nature is an osmotic process, ‘pure’ R&D (pure = academic?) could be something isolated in a lab – but the findings and work carried out in that lab are nothing, if they’re not shared and peer reviewed. Academics are used to working in this ‘pure’ form – but what about us? Our industry moves far to quickly for us to adopt a model that can take months to produce a finding, a finding which has been tested, reviewed, and tested again – before being published for peer review and replication.
So is innovation, simply a way to communicate that R&D in the ‘new world’ is a distributed medium, that carries out it’s peer review in an open, faster, forum than the traditional ‘pure’ science journals? Is ‘innovation’ simply a way to allow everyone, regardless of what they do in an organisation, a chance to carry out R&D?
I’m not sure there’s a tension between ‘pure’ R&D and innovation – but we should make an attempt to ensure that the very things that make R&D so vital to the future of a company are not lost in the clamor to make sure you ‘appear’ innovative. In other words. Let’s make sure innovation is a tool, or a lens, that we use to communicate our work; but does not become the petard we end up hoisting ourselves up.