It’s people that innovate…

Tim Harper, a serial nanotechnology entrepreneur, recently wrote a great article on ‘Seven rules for nanotech innovation’ for Physics World, an Institute of Physics publication. Sadly, you can’t read it online unless you’re a member. What struck the Badger from reading the article was two things; first, just how closely Tim’s points aligned with the Badger’s experience in IT services, and second that innovation comes from people with belief, determination and resilience in the face of the indifference of others. Corporations per se don’t innovate, but the individuals within them do!

Of course, it’s corporations that benefit from the ideas of their employees, especially when there’s an internal culture that truly encourages creativity and innovation. Often, however, that internal culture is absent, and talented, hard-working employees become frustrated or apathetic about progressing their ideas, and some leave to take their chances as an entrepreneur in the big wide world.

Corporations must continuously innovate in the digital world (e.g. see this from McKinsey) and most in IT services say the right things, have innovation champions, have extensive internal processes to capture and evaluate ideas, and have budget to nurture ideas with potential. Processes and controls are a necessity for any commercial enterprise, but these processes are too often bureaucratic, cumbersome, and slow, which discourages busy people from engaging with them. The Badger’s seen few true innovations come to fruition through such machinery; most ideas seem to stall in the process with people wondering why they bothered!

So, what do you do if your ideas are getting nowhere? Be hard on yourself and re-evaluate your idea ruthlessly and objectively. We can all be blinkered about our ideas, so remember it’s ‘the market’ that comes first not the science or technology. Will your idea really have commercial usefulness and, if so, in what market? Who’ll use it, pay for it and why? If you’re unclear on this then it may be why you’re encountering indifference and getting nowhere.

If, however, you’ve clear answers, then you may just be mired in slow, dogmatic corporate bureaucracy which is at odds with a truly creative and innovation-centred culture. If your passion for your idea is overwhelming and your frustration high then you may be at a career crossroads. Do you leave for a dynamic, smaller company hungry for new ideas to fuel growth, or do you plunge into the uncertain world of becoming an entrepreneur? Only you can make such judgements. If you do, then do so knowing that  it’s people that innovate, most innovation originates in smaller companies or start-ups, and that most of these are eventually bought by bigger companies! Your job satisfaction could soar, and you could make your fortune far sooner than with a corporate. One final point. Be confident in yourself and never stifle your creativity. After all, your ideas are just as valid as anyone else’s…

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