Making Innovation Work in the Real World

Andre Yee, Senior Vice President, Eloqua | 8/1/2011 | 29 comments

Andre Yee
Innovation is a hot topic in the IT industry. Everyone wants to create innovative products and processes, but no one knows how to make it happen. More specifically, no one seems to have time to make it happen.

Admit it. At times, doesn't innovation seem absolutely incompatible with the rhythm of the IT organization? Many IT organizations and small technology companies are driven by the urgent rather than the important. Sure, innovation is important, but how does it stack up against getting a bug fixed for a customer at 4:57 p.m. on a Friday afternoon?

How do technology organizations support innovation in the busy rhythm of the real world? Here are a few principles to keep in mind if you want to make it work.

Create time for innovation
Innovation generally doesn't occur in the "spare change" of your schedule. Ideas can occur in the most random of moments, but for an idea to evolve into an innovation, you must schedule in time for the process to complete. Google is famous for allocating 20 percent of developers' time to innovation projects. This has led to a number of feature enhancements and successful products, like Gmail, Google Talk, and Z.

Perhaps you won't get your senior management team to agree to 20 percent, but try something smaller. At my company, we've implemented our version of something called "FedEx Day." (It's not our idea: read more about "delivering innovation overnight" here.) FedEx Day is set aside for developers to think and create freely, away from requirement documents and use cases. The idea of FedEx Day is to code, test, and ship working code all in a day.

Yes, it costs the company a day of normal productivity, but the return is well worth it. Recently, one of the FedEx Day projects turned into a new, more efficient workflow engine for our product.

Celebrate innovation
Look for bright glimmers of innovation and celebrate them, in both formal and informal ways. For example, we turn FedEx Day into a friendly competition, in which teams compete for the (unbelievably tacky and ugly) Feddy Award. The point is this: Having fun and recognizing success ensure that innovation remains a high priority in your organization.

Innovation isn't just about technology
Sometimes innovation in a technology organization has nothing to do with technology at all. It also occurs when someone re-engineers our quality processes to deliver better results or finds a way to train new team members more effectively. Building a culture of innovation means identifying and celebrating it in all stripes.

Constraints are good
Some believe that innovation works best with no time constraints, an overabundance of resources, and a pristine environment. (When you find that job, let me know, so that I can wake you up, because you're dreaming.) Yet I believe that constraints on resources, time, and context are not only inevitable but actually helpful. Constraints sharpen our wits, focus our thinking, and therefore help us innovate. Don’t fall into the false notion that you need to be free from all constraints in order to create.

What do you think? How have you been able to stimulate innovation in a busy organization? Please share your ideas.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
The_Phil   Making Innovation Work in the Real World   8/14/2011 4:04:09 PM
Re: Small innovation counts too

As we all know, the bigger the risk, the greater the rewards in the end.
Susan Fourtané   Making Innovation Work in the Real World   8/14/2011 7:31:21 AM
Re: Small innovation counts too
Those are the ones who take risks, succeed and make fortunes while others are comfortably waiting to see if the ideas work to copy them. 

User Ranking: Blogger
The_Phil   Making Innovation Work in the Real World   8/12/2011 7:28:16 PM
Re: Small innovation counts too

And those are the types of people that do very well in the entrepreneurial game!
Susan Fourtané   Making Innovation Work in the Real World   8/8/2011 12:17:47 PM
Re: Small innovation counts too

Or you can sell the startup to someone else for a considerable amount of money. It's a way of living on your ideas. Now, for doing this you need to be really creative and innovative. 


User Ranking: Blogger
The_Phil   Making Innovation Work in the Real World   8/5/2011 10:54:53 PM
Re: Small innovation counts too

Not necessarily. It's just startup with a twist & more $$.
fbpmt   Making Innovation Work in the Real World   8/5/2011 9:32:58 PM
Re: Small innovation counts too
The_Phil -- and thus defeating the purpose of the startup??
User Ranking: Blogger
The_Phil   Making Innovation Work in the Real World   8/5/2011 9:03:20 PM
Re: Small innovation counts too

It's simple, once you have the idea, you just have to find someone with alot of money and/or connections to market and sell the idea for you. The only catch is, you're not the sole leadership anymore. You have to answer to more than just yourself. ;)
Andre Yee   Making Innovation Work in the Real World   8/5/2011 5:16:58 PM
Re: Small innovation counts too
@fbpmt - I understand.   But you know what's funny?  I have been in 150 person R&D org and also small shop w 20+ indiv.  In every place I've been, there's always a sense of more work than we have people to do.   No one has time to innovate unless you carve out the time... it doesn't have to be much, to be meaningful
User Ranking: Blogger
fbpmt   Making Innovation Work in the Real World   8/5/2011 3:56:28 PM
Re: Small innovation counts too
@Andre Yee - yes, the startup derives and implements new ideas but not necessarily able to implement quickly. and there is a shortage of resources, time and people, and much to do!

I suppose there is a happy medium  - cap the new ideas to a certain level, otherwise only new ideas will be catered to and the mission statement will be ignired, thus the startup doesnt start up!
User Ranking: Blogger
Andre Yee   Making Innovation Work in the Real World   8/5/2011 3:19:04 PM
Re: Small innovation counts too
@fbpmt - isn't the very essence of a startup to innovate?   That's the only edge a startup has.   You're not bigger, don't have more money but successful startups have ideas and the ability to execute quickly.
User Ranking: Blogger
Page 1 / 3   >   >>

The blogs and comments posted on do not reflect the views of TechWeb,, or its sponsors., TechWeb, and its sponsors do not assume responsibility for any comments, claims, or opinions made by authors and bloggers. They are no substitute for your own research and should not be relied upon for trading or any other purpose.

More Blogs from Andre Yee
Andre Yee   5/17/2013   25 comments
When it comes to big-data, everyone wants in, so it is no surprise that some companies are flocking to launch big-data projects before they figure out how it actually makes a material ...
Andre Yee   2/27/2013   77 comments
It was the shot heard 'round Silicon Valley. Marissa Mayer irked the Yahoo employee base and seemingly the entire technology blogging community by ending the company's remote work policy. ...
Andre Yee   12/7/2012   12 comments
According to Gartner, by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs. Surprised? You shouldn't be.
Andre Yee   2/15/2012   17 comments
If you're a technology leader, finding the right technical talent is always a challenge. It may be the most important thing you do as a manager, but it's far from easy. Whether you're ...
Andre Yee   12/13/2011   10 comments
Let me state right upfront that I'm a proponent of offshoring. In fact, I'm not only a proponent but also a veteran of the offshoring model. Throughout the course of my career, I've ...
Latest Archived Broadcast
We talk with Bernard Golden about accelerating application delivery in the cloud.
On-demand Video with Chat
Register for this video discussion to learn how tablets can provide true business usability and productivity.
E2 IT Migration Zones
IT Migration Zone - UK
Why PowerShell Is Important
Reduce the Windows 8 Footprint for VDI
Rethinking Storage Management
IT Migration Zone - FR
SQL Server : 240 To de mémoire flash pour votre data warehouse
Quand Office vient booster les revenus Cloud et Android de Microsoft
Windows Phone : Nokia veut davantage d'applications (et les utilisateurs aussi)
IT Migration Zone - DE
Cloud Computing: Warum Unternehmen trotz NSA auf die „private“ Wolke setzen sollten
Cloud Computing bleibt Wachstumsmarkt – Windows Azure ist Vorreiter
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Enterprise Efficiency Twitter Feed
Site Moderators Wanted
Enterprise Efficiency is looking for engaged readers to moderate the message boards on this site. Engage in high-IQ conversations with IT industry leaders; earn kudos and perks. Interested? E-mail:
Dell's Efficiency Modeling Tool
The major problem facing the CIO is how to measure the effectiveness of the IT department. Learn how Dell’s Efficiency Modeling Tool gives the CIO two clear, powerful numbers: Efficiency Quotient and Impact Quotient. These numbers can be transforma¬tive not only to the department, but to the entire enterprise.

Read the full report
The State of Enterprise Efficiency in the Virtual Era: Virtualization – Smart Approaches to Maximize Gains
Virtualization is a presence in nearly all enterprise data centers. But not all companies are using it to its best effect. Learn the common characteristics of success, what barriers companies face, and how to get the most from your efforts.

Read the full report
Informed CIO: Dollars & Sense: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Cut through the VDI hype and get the full picture -- including ROI and the impact on your Data Center -- to make an informed decision about your virtual desktop infrastructure deployments.

Read the full report
A Video Case Study – Translational Genomics Research Institute
e2 Video

On the Case
TGen IT: Where We're Going Next

7|11|12   |   08:12   |   10 comments

Now that TGen has broken new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions, the company discusses what will come next for it and for personalized medicine.
On the Case
Better Care Through Better Communications

6|6|12   |   02:24   |   11 comments

The achievements of the TGen/Dell project could improve how all people receive healthcare, because they are creating ways to improve end-to-end communication of medical data.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Are Now

5|15|12   |   06:58   |   6 comments

TGen is breaking new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Were

4|27|12   |   06:45   |   10 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute wanted to save lives, but its efforts were hobbled by immense computing challenges related to collecting, processing, sharing, and storing enormous amounts of data.
On the Case
1,200% Faster

4|18|12   |   02:27   |   12 comments

Through their partnership, Dell and TGen have increased the speed of TGen’s medical research by 1,200 percent.
On the Case
IT May Improve Children's Chances of Survival

4|17|12   |   02:12   |   8 comments

IT is helping medical researchers reach breakthroughs in a way and pace never seen before.
On the Case
Medical Advances in the Cloud

4|10|12   |   1:25   |   5 comments

TGen and Dell are pushing the boundaries of computing, and harnessing the power of the cloud to improve healthcare.
On the Case
TGen: Living the Mission

4|9|12   |   2:25   |   3 comments

TGen's CIO puts the organizational mission at the heart of everything the IT staff does.
On the Case
TGen Speeding Up Biomedical Research to Save More Lives

4|5|12   |   1:59   |   6 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute is revamping its computing to improve speed, storage, and collaboration – and, most importantly, to save lives.
On the Case
Computing Power Helping to Save Children's Lives

3|28|12   |   2:13   |   3 comments

The Translational Genomics Institute’s partnership with Dell is enabling them to treat kids with neuroblastoma more quickly and save more lives.
Tom Nolle
The Big Reason to Use Office

3|18|14   |   02:24   |   46 comments

Office and personal productivity tools come in a first-class and coach flavor set, but what makes the difference is primarily little things that most users won't encounter. What's the big issue in using something other than Office, and can you get around it?
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Mobile Security — A Use Case

3|4|14   |   04:27   |   16 comments

New mobile security solutions can accommodate a wide array of needs, including those of a complex university environment.
Tom Nolle
Killing Net Neutrality Might Save You Money

1|16|14   |   2:13   |   16 comments

The DC Court of Appeals voided most of the Neutrality Order, and whatever it might mean for the Internet overall, it might mean better and cheaper Internet VPNs for businesses.
Tom Nolle
The Internet of Everythinguseful

1|10|14   |   2:18   |   19 comments

We really don't want an "Internet of Everything" but even building an Internet of Everythinguseful means setting some ground rules to insure there's value in the process and that costs and risks are minimized.
Tom Nolle
Maturing Google Chrome

12|30|13   |   2.18   |   25 comments

Google's Chrome OS has a lot of potential value and a lot of recent press, but it still needs something to make it more than a thin client. It needs cloud integration, it needs extended APIs via web services, and it needs to suck it up and support a hard drive.
Sara Peters
No More Cookie-Cutter IT

12|23|13   |   03.58   |   21 comments

Creating the right combination of technology, people, and processes for your IT organization is a lot like baking Christmas cookies.
Sara Peters
Smart Wigs Not a Smart Idea

12|5|13   |   3:01   |   46 comments

Sony is seeking a patent for wigs that contain computing devices.
Tom Nolle
Cloud in the Wild

12|4|13   |   02:23   |   15 comments

On a recent African trip I saw examples of the value of the cloud in developing nations, for educational and community development programs. We could build on this, but not only in developing economies, because these same programs are often under-supported even in first-world countries.
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Is Malware Evading Your IPS?

11|18|13   |   03:16   |   4 comments

Intrusion prevention software is supposed to detect and block malware intrusions, but clever malware authors can evade your IPS in these five main ways.
Sara Peters
Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

9|27|13   |   3:15   |   38 comments

A good professional mentor can change your life for the better... but where do you find one?
Tom Nolle
SDN Wars & You Could Win

9|17|13   |   2:10   |   5 comments

VMware's debate with Cisco on SDN might finally create a fusion between an SDN view that's all about software and another that's all about network equipment. That would be good for every enterprise considering the cloud and SDN.
Ivan Schneider
The Future of the Smart Watch

9|12|13   |   3:19   |   39 comments

Wearing a bulky, oversized watch is good training for the next phase in wristwatches: the Internet-enabled, connected watch. Why the smartphone-tethered connected watch makes sense, plus Ivan demos an entirely new concept for the "smart watch."
Tom Nolle
Cutting Your Cloud Storage Costs

9|4|13   |   2:06   |   3 comments

Cloud storage costs are determined primarily by the rate at which files are changed and the possibility of concurrent access/update. If you can structure your storage use to optimize these factors you can cut costs, perhaps to zero.
Sara Peters
Do CIOs Need an IT Background?

8|29|13   |   2:11   |   23 comments

Most of the CIOs interviewed in the How to Become a CIO series did not start their careers as IT professionals. So is an IT background essential?
Ivan Schneider
The Internet Loves Birthdays

8|27|13   |   3:25   |   69 comments

The Internet has evolved into a machine for drumming up a chorus of "Happy Birthday" messages, from family, friends, friends of friends who you added on Facebook, random people that you circled on G+, and increasingly, automated bots. Enough already.