Is it just me but it seems as if every public speaker and corporation seems to be giving seminars on Innovation these days? I have been invited to give three in the last four weeks!  It’s almost as if innovation has just been invented.

At the age of 40, I was privileged to be the COO of a small but very innovative software company, right here in the heart of Belgium. 

If you were to ask the design team of that company how come they always managed to beat the giant Texas instruments (with its teams of literally hundreds of engineers) to the market with better, more innovative, more performant software, I guess they would put it down to their super innovative and brilliant software development skills.

If you were to ask the same question to the sales and marketing teams, they would put it down to the fact that they were out there right in the middle of the market place listening to what was required right here, right now and not what was on some 10 year road map development program.

If you were to ask the finance department they would clearly say that it was largely down to the way that they could consolidate the financial book keeping of six legal entities in six countries in three continents in less than 30 days, simply using some spreadsheets and a simple database, with only two employees!

If you were to ask the CEO he would have put it down to his supernatural talent for reading the future and delivering what was required tomorrow today.

If you were to ask me, I would tell you it was the environment that I helped create, an environment that allowed the cross fertilization of ideas from each of the companies key disciplines.

As the company grew, the sales and marketing people no longer sat around the same dinner table with the development team and finance.  And the CEO was always away on an important mission visiting someone, somewhere around the globe.  At that point I could see things change and although I managed to ensure that each department still had the structure and space to remain innovative, something died.  And this is the challenge for large companies with their departmental fortresses. 

Innovation is the ability to do something new with something that already exists.  Innovation is the new application of a tool, product, idea, action or concept based upon something that we already have.  So why is it so hard for us to be so good at innovation?

I must dash because today I have been appointed Chairman at the ‘IT Enabled Business Innovation’ day for CIOnet Belgium’s annual top event!

Have a good week,

Harley