Part of the work I’ve been doing this year is gathering up the last several conversations I’ve had over the course of doing several mobile strategy engagements at various Fortune 500 companies around the US. It’s been on the forefront of companies’ agendas as emerging technology that’ll transform the way business is done, so it’s not uncommon for the forward looking people at a company to be involved in the conversations I have while I’m there.

Typically the person put in charge of mobile is someone that’s been there a while, though it’s also been brand new employees who are just getting up to speed. Regardless, the people that typically champion mobile are A) an executive that knows it’s important and has a deep understanding of the IT culture who has also gained some level of tenure and favor with the CIO to move this initiative forward and B) someone that reports to that individual who has the passion & drive to learn it inside and out, then help promote it throughout the enterprise.

Both individuals typically know it’ll be difficult to maneuver through the foray of enterprise politics, approvals, and individuals and has to be someone that knows mobile inside and out on day 1 who also has the ability to build relationships and help with the user adoption from the get go. There isn’t a “ramp” time on the knowledge, because confidence has to be built for others to follow the direction vs feeling like they’re just as much of an expert and decide down a different path entirely.

I’m brought in as a consultant, because I can do both of those things, and helps augment the staff at the company assigned to make it happen. However, whether I’m there or not, it’s not easy seeding a new technology along with all the best practices and governance elements that come with it to make sure it’s rolled out efficiently and responsibly. People often have their own perspectives on how things should go, there’s conflicting budget request, it’s never a good budget cycle to do this, and technology typically gets adopted slowly. These are just some of the barriers that an organization will face, when trying to push a new technology out into the business.

Yet, over time, the technology does become seeded and eventually does get adopted. It’ll happen at some companies faster than others, but it’ll happen because in the back of everyone’s mind, change has to occur for the business to stay competitive. Consultants like myself help speed up things, because we’ve done it numerous times elsewhere and much like installing carpet – you could learn to do it yourself, but it’s not cost feasible if you’re only going to install carpet once every 5-10 years vs. someone that does it day in and day out.

Those people I met though, that champion the technology, are true innovators. Innovation is difficult, it’s painful, and it’s not fun to shake things up and help people believe that they are in worse shape if they don’t listen to you. Each of these people are innovators in their own right, because they know the current climate and understand what it takes to make change happen along with knowing what needs to change and the benefits therein. More importantly though, they have the gusto and motivation to push that change forward regardless of the obstacles. Too often, the term “innovator” is given to people that invent new ways of doing things or help shape / design a new type of product or service. Though that may be a type of innovator, they will leave at the end of the day and who’s left in the company is now tasked with the other kind of innovation – getting these brainstorms and blueprints implemented and adapted. This requires years of relationship building, execution and trust, selfless service, and a red hot passion for helping their company be better. Innovation means in its simplest form “A new method, idea, product, etc.” and represents newness. It varies from invention though, in that this is translating an idea or invention into a good service or product that creates value for which someone will pay money.

An innovation doesn’t have to create something from scratch, but rather take what’s been created and find a way to apply it. The conception of the idea is the fun part, but it’s the implementation of that idea that’s so tricky. Inventors are all over the place, everywhere you look, and one doesn’t have to go far to see someone that has a patent or credited with inventing something new. To see the innovators though, is trickier, because they’re lodged deep inside organizations or governments or corporations taking those inspirational ideas and creations, and finding a way to apply it to their environment. More importantly, they’re spending the time and effort to grease the wheels and make sure there’s a compatible and acceptable environment for that invention to thrive.

A number of people have written books the last several years on innovation, and the words “disruptive innovation” are mentioned 4.2 million times on Google. Yet, we’re in a worldwide recession with serious issues in every area of our lives, from childhood obesity to guns in schools in the forefront of our minds. There’s no lack of thinking around disruptive innovation, and no shortage of best practices and formulas for being a more innovative you.

I believe the real disconnect though, because the theories and the problems, is the doers in the middle that connect the dots and take a small amount of thinking and do something with it. It’s not easy to be a doer, it’s not easy to connect dots (especially when it’s just a side job). There’s so many things that can get in the way, yet the unsung heroes in every enterprise get up and make it happen each and every day. The real question is, how does one reduce the drag & complexity towards making innovation something the corporations can stomach, support, and streamline?

That’s for the next blog – What supports the Innovator?

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