Patents

Deciding to create a culture of innovation

Innovation isn't one of those things that just happen. You have to make it happen. This video shows how one Internet entrepreneur dropped out of college to start a business built around innovation.

Innovation isn't one of those things that just happens. You have to make it happen. This video shows how one Internet entrepreneur dropped out of college to start a business built around innovation.

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"Innovation" is one of those words that's tossed around so much in the technology arena that it barely means anything anymore. It's become an annoying buzzword that just rolls out of people's mouths in annoying management speak. In reality, however, it's much more than that.

True innovation -- coming up with new and exciting ideas that can transform products, business methods, and entire organizations -- takes more than lip service. It also takes more than an individual. It takes a culture and thought process inside an organization. As an IT leader, you're in a position to help build that culture of innovation.

This video from TechRepublic sister site BNET shows how Frank Addante, CEO of RubiconProject, approaches building teams in his organization with innovation as a key mind-set.

Let's go to the video

The bad thing about the video is that it starts off being an infomercial about RubiconProject.com. I suppose that's necessary to establish Frank Addante as a legitimate Internet businessman, but the video is only five minutes long, and it takes a lot of time to get to the meat of the video.

By 1:58, you discover what it is in Frank as a leader that made him decide to start building Internet companies and take risks where other people his age were still busy rushing fraternities. You get a quick sense of how Frank builds his Culture of Innovation in the way he describes the team that he has built. He describes them as being aggressive and driven in everything they do, including community service projects.

At 2:34, Frank talks about how to build that culture. He says it takes the following steps:

  • Making a commitment to build the culture
  • Having the revenue on hand to invest in innovative ideas
  • Making mistakes

I assume with that last bullet point that Frank intends you to learn from your mistakes, although that goes unstated in the video.

Likewise, there's no insight about how to get the revenue that he says is needed. RubiconProject is fortunate to have plenty of venture capital, but spare revenue is something that isn't much in abundance today.

That leaves the first bullet point -- committing to the concept of innovation and making it a core value. As long as you can keep the excitement level high in an organization, you can figure out ways of doing more with less, for a while anyway.

Frank goes on to discuss an obvious point about how having good people in an organization is key to having that culture of innovation. Almost every manager talks about how a company's most important asset is its workers -- especially around the times layoffs hit. But with the idea of building an innovative culture, this isn't just management speak. You have to have the people with the same mind-sets in order to successfully bring innovative ideas to fruition.

The video concludes with Frank discussing the future of automation and advertising. It represents some innovation and forward thinking in its own right.

The bottom line for IT leaders

As an IT leader, you're in a unique position to help influence an innovation culture for your organization. You provide the technology necessary to help drive innovation. Along with a central location in the organization, you have the unique placement to see across business functions to help figure out new ways of doing things.

Start with the people in your direct sphere of influence. With an infectious enthusiasm, you can build a team that can help drive innovation throughout an organization. In an economy such as this, it might be more difficult, and companies may be more risk averse, but with the proper approach, you can have even wider influence.

Innovation won't happen on its own. You have to decide to make it happen and then execute on the decision.

2 comments
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Innovation has become one of those nonsensical management terms that people kick around. However, true innovation can change an organization. In IT, there are things you can do to help build a culture of innovation in your organization. In Decision Central, I've pointed out a video from TechRepublic's sister site BNET that features Frank Addante from RubiconProject about how he builds a Culture of Innovation in his companies: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/decisioncentral/?p=172 What do you think? Is he on track? What do you do, or can do, in your own organization to drive innovation?

lodestone
lodestone

If the synopsis is any indication of what the video actually covers (I skipped it not wanting an infomercial), Addante misses the point. Innovation is not kept afloat via enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is emotion-based. Emotions are about as fickle as the price of oil when OPEC sneezes. Instead, innovation is fueled by leadership (not management but leadership) and leadership is about vision. Only with visionary leadership are the proper business priorities established and the proper attitudes cultivated leading to innovation as business-as-usual. Addante was right that it takes $$ but really, what doesn't? He did at least begin to address the fact that part of the proper culture is giving permission to experiment (make mistakes). If Edison had been of the mindset prevalent in some of today's businesses, there'd be no light bulb. --Allen

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