This week, I attended a meeting of Gartner’s Emerging Technologies Best Practices Council. It was a fascinating week of learning about how old organizations are using new technologies in new ways. Not surprisingly, there were many conversations about Web 2.0 technologies. There were also several discussions on the process of creating ideas, ideation.
My Myers-Briggs type is INTP. So, assuming one believes in those instruments, I am suppose to be an idea-generating machine who “… starting with only a vague intuition, can construct a whole new world of ideas.” But this notion of ideation had been bugging me for a while, but I really couldn’t put my finger on why. I was reading a passage in Judy Estrin’s book “Closing the Innovation Gap” which shed a little light on my irritation.
“There are a half a dozen words in the English language that are substitutes for substance. Three of them are innovation, accountability, and leadership,” says retired Intel CEO Andy Grove. “Companies that let people get away with murder talk too much about accountability. Those that don’t have the courage to leave the handrail talk incessantly about leadership. And people who are incapable of changing what they are doing, or even analyzing what’s wrong, go on and on about innovation.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, my husband would tell you that I am probably an impractical true-to-type INTP. But, what good are ideas if they never develop into anything of measured value, use or purpose? Drop back ten and punt? And then again, how do you know whether or not you’re on the very brink of inventing the next wonderful thing? Fourth and short – go for it!
Time Magazine just recognized the 50 Best Inventions of 2008. Two missions from NASA made the list – Goddard Space Flight Center’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (#3); and though not entirely a Goddard Mission, the Mars Science Lab (#18) will carry Goddard’s own microwave-oven-sized instrument suite, Sample Analysis at Mars. I am clearly fortunate to live in what Estrin calls an Ecosystem that has bred such marvelous engineering wonders of the world. But, how does a CIO create and nurture an Ecosystem that breeds the IT wonders of the world? It’s all around me and I don’t want to just talk about it, I want to do it.
In looking back at great innovations, they seemed to have come about as a result of the right environment, for the right people, given the right resources. These people, and their supporting leadership, also had a courage to persist that was fueled by passion and inspired by a nurturing culture.
Maybe ideation seemed to me to be a mindless paint-by-numbers process. It’s probably not. I think it just seemed strange to define a process that was so natural to me. Whatever. But, the supernatural part comes in when we understand how to apply the right dose of leadership, passion, power, and purpose to inspire ideas into reality and into masterpieces of innovation.
Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center