Innovation – What is it?

From the definitional standpoint, Innovation can have a disruptive influence or a sustaining impact on an organization. But, from a practical standpoint, Innovation may not have any relationship with the volume of work done or the amount of money spent on a project. A single line of code change can really have a huge impact on the organization moving the organization in unexplored territory and a million-dollar Innovation project may fail to have a true Innovation impact.

Ideally, it all depends. But, on what?

Let’s explore that.


Impact of a Line of Code


Just as an anti-pattern, history of technology educated us what could be the impact of a single line of code during the early days of e-commerce if we are not enough careful. In early e-commerce days when there was a single server for  hosting with no DR or HA environments,  an administrator just executed a single line of scripted code at the root of the server, that eventually wiped out the file system of the server. And, obliterated the organization.

That single line scripted code is:


rm -rf

As a matter of fact, real innovation in Information Technology requires years of research, efforts, toils that help orient thoughts and efforts towards creative activities. It is normally an activity that goes far beyond the countable number of lines of codes.

For example, first research paper in Artificial Intelligence was published in 1950. It took years to get AI operationalized across Industry. The fundamental reasons that expedited the adoption of AI in last 10 years are –


  • Increase in Computing Power, primarily with the advent of Cloud Computing
  • Maturity of Algorithms
  • Availability of Training Data with the Big Data Systems in place across Industries

In case of Smart Phone, the innovation approach was slightly different. The primary driver was the background of Steve Jobs as a leader. But, contrary to the common belief, he had been well-supported by a very innovative team. His Innovation team was formed with a bunch of dreamers, yes, not dreamers only, they were doers too.

A conventional market research is probably inadequate for building a Smart Phone when BlackBerry was ruling the market with a complacent leader.

The key difference is the interdisciplinary background of BlackBerry CEO and Steve Jobs who throughout his life valued employees with interdisciplinary skills.


Impact of a Creative Mind


What we can think of the impact of a creative mind on the area of product innovation is, of course, the innovation of Smart Phone. BlackBerry was being used in industries wide across the world. How can the innovation of a Smart Phone be possible at all in that context?

Was it driven by Market Research? Not necessarily.

Were the mobile phone users having the idea of a product like this? Not necessarily.

How did it become possible? We may need to probably explore the progress of science behind the Disruptive Innovation beginning with the conventional concepts of Competitive Strategy and Competitive Advantage maturing into Blue Ocean Strategy.


Sustaining Innovation


What can qualify for Sustaining Innovation which is widely thought of Innovation to Go across industries.

Sustaining Innovation begins with small changes that drive the incremental progress of the way products and applications can create market or increase revenue or optimize the organizational processes and so on.

Incremental change/modification is the key driver for Sustaining Innovation, keeping the end goal in mind.


Impact of Sustaining Innovation on Process Optimization


  • Cloud Migration – Having Stage Gate to evaluate whether Cloud Native approach adds value as compared to Lift and Shift migration is an important process change towards Sustaining Innovation.


  • Security as part of Development Process – Having Stage Gate to have Cybersecurity requirements checked as part of the Application Development Process, be it Waterfall or Agile, is very important. Thinking about Cybersecurity as not an end of development process is important. Verification and validation of Cybersecurity requirements should be an essential step during Requirement Gathering, Design, Development, Unit Testing, Functional/Integration Testing, User Acceptance Testing etc. During Agile Process-based Application Development, Cybersecurity awareness is important for the Scrum teams. Scrum Master should own the responsibility of making sure that the Cybersecurity checks are being executed properly.


  • Requirement Gathering – This is an important process that triggers the Application Development after Project Inception takes place and Project Charter is ready with formation of Team. When we are implementing Sustaining Innovation, we should make best efforts to initiate the process taking the Baseline Requirements into account. Baseline As-Is Requirements might be available readily with an existing application in place. Incremental modifications need to be added to as the product/application goals take a shape with progressive elaboration being an essential technique of project management process.


  • Design of System – The important factors to keep in mind are as follows –
      • Modularity
      • Externalization of Configurable Items
      • Incorporation of modern design patterns like Circuit Breaker etc.


  • Architecture of System – The important factors to keep in mind are as follows –
      • Reusability across Applications
      • Standardization
      • Decoupled non-Monolithic Components


  • Unit/Functional/Integration/Performance/User Acceptance Testing – The important factors to keep in mind are as follows –
      • Automation and Scripting
      • Identification of testing tools oriented towards desired Process Improvement


  • End Delivery and Customer Satisfaction – Responsiveness taking care of Post-Acceptance Dissonance.


  • Operational Activities – The important factors to keep in mind are as follows –
      • Scripting and Automation
      • RPA, if can be utilized
      • Collaboration with other teams to develop Operational/Support Reference documents


Just to conclude the discussion on What is Innovation, it is worth sharing the thoughts of Peter Drucker on what are the important events or areas that may act as the triggers for Innovation –


  • Unexpected occurrences
  • Incongruities
  • Process needs
  • Industry and Market changes
  • Demographic changes
  • Changes in Perception
  • New Knowledge

And, two important aspects of Organizational Functions that are very important to create Innovation Culture in any  Organization are as follows – 


  • Budgeting for Innovation Projects
  • Managing Risks with Innovation initiatives


  1. Books by Clayton Christensen