Sunday, April 5, 2009

Origins of Innovation

Half conscious/half dozing on this sunday morning... listening to CBC Radio Sunday Edition host Michael Enright interview author Anne Michaels on her new book. I hear a phrase over the airways and I'm suddenly wide awake.

"Primordial Soup", one of the radio voices said. A visual appeared before my half-opened eyes. Dark, liquid murk. Sludge chock full of little bits of amino acids and chemicals and molecules of the most fundamental building blocks. A gooey slime full of everything and yet nothing.

Teeming with potential. With fragments, with components. But these pieces meaningless in isolation.

Somewhere a spark, the light bulb moment, the epiphany, the thunderclap - and the swampy mess comes alive. The individual bits collide and fuse. And something new, and interesting and living is created.

The people-centric collaboration that 2.0 brings to business can be messy. We introduce personality and ego, loyalties and rivalries... process and hierarchy often get circumvented... seemingly meaningless bits of information, content, half baked ideas and opinions form the Enterprise Primordial Soup. Maybe it's tough to justify, to measure, to pay homage to the golden calf of RETURN ON INVESTMENT.

But then that lightening bolt of Crisis hits: employee departure or reorganization, of mergers, or acquisitions, when the competition gets the edge, or customers revolt. Organizations that have allowed this pool of collected intelligence sit and stew have the potential to spin off and act on new ideas and processes. Sometimes only that lightening strike forces the scattered pieces to come together. To prove that the sum is stronger than the parts. That innovation = life.

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