Priest in the Church of England. Trustee SPCK. Father, husband, son. "Small acts of Good change the world."

Tag: work

Innovating on R&D

in response to Frank and the comments from my last post, not to mention a few more conversations with interesting people.

from David Reece on flickr.com

from David Reeves on flickr.com

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.

Ashley is moving on

I’ve almost deliberately not blogged about my super boss leaving the BBC and heading for pastures new – he’s off to run Kangaroo. But with the amount of traffic and questions I’m getting from the nice people of the press perhaps this is the easiest place to comment.

There’s been a massive amount of talk in the developer community about who should replace himIan points out the Tech Crunch article where Mike has written an open letter asking for us to open more of the data that the license fee payer has already paid for – I don’t want to have a go at Mike too much because he’s put me on a list of people (vote now!) who could replace Mr Highfield – Mr Cridland is leading the way right now.

However, it’s a wonderful thought, and Mr Forrester and I have been working really hard to make that happen for the last 18 months – the BBC actually has a department set up to make this happen – it’s called backstage.bbc.co.uk – but it’s not as effective as it could be. Lots more work to do on opening our stuff. But there’s a shift happening and it’s really cool. Developers inside the organisation feel as strongly about this as start-ups and developers outside do – we all want to make our stuff available, in the best format and easiest method for people to re-use.

For the first time since I’ve been back at the beeb there’s a real vibe about making that happen. Mr Highfield has supported that, in fact he’s actively encouraged it to happen, both in the broader ‘making things happen’ sense and in the more practical making money available to run things like Mashed. He has a massive amount of respect from me for doing just that, and I’m sad to see him leave.

As for his successor – that’s not for me to say – there will be a group of people vastly more qualified than me to make that decision – I’m always happy to comment and proffer my extensive (ha ha ha!) knowledge should I be asked – but I wont be doing that in public. Sorry.