Thoughts on IT, Innovation and iPods

Today was an exciting day.

Some time ago, I was appointed “Innovation dinamizer”, which is kind of “the person who makes their peers think about innovation”. That’s now an extra part of my job, without extra income.

But today we finally were ready for launching all this innovation stuff. Even when I think it is still a second-class citicien, it is great to see that (at last) we focus on something more than on working hour after hour to finish a project.

Now we are actually caring about learning how to do things better and faster. And that certainly makes a difference.

We, as a company, are very special in the sense that we have a department (technology) in charge of developping a very innovative suite of products, while the rest of the firm (enginering) is, to a great extent, still in the Java Consulting bussiness. So our understanding of innovation reflects this.

There are two guidelines for us:

  • Java Excelence: We are java guys, all of us. And we’ve been doing Java things for years, including an OSS implementation for a telco and our own products. But there’re lot of things going on on the Java world, and it is just not enough that a few of us learn them… it has to be a company-wide effort.
  • Information Integration Excelence: Our products focus on that, so we must know them, but also the competency and ad-hoc solutions.

So… how do you foster innovation on these areas? We focus on two easy steps…

  1. Learn – read books and online sources, test, play.
  2. Apply – do something new. Nothing like cold fussion, our focus is on the small step (after all, we have a department for the big oones).

Our infrastructure is quite simple right now… just a wiki for storing everyone’s work on innovation. Also a CVS, in case an idea needs code. In the long term we would like to have blogs, bugzilla and some web space for storing free form content.

I personally think that innovation is cool, and fun. Think of it. Most of your time is spent working on what’s important for someone else. But when you’re innovating, you work in what you think is needed.

To transmit this feeling to the group, we started today by announcing a contest. The objective is that people learn to use one of our products for Information Integration. Initially we were giving computer books to the winners, but after some conversation with upper management, we finally switched to iPods (nano and shuffle).

Now I’m regretting being part of the jury.



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