In 2006, I wrote about some of the top barriers to innovation. Not surprisingly, these barriers haven’t gone away in the intervening years. However, as I reviewed them, I noticed that changes in the technical landscape have had some effect.
For instance, one common complaint of innovators (and would-be innovators) was the siloing in organizations. People often don’t know what is happening in the next building or refuse to share if they do. Lines of authority and executive “ownership” can even make an enterprise work against its own interest, especially in a resource-constrained environment.
Social networks have made in much easier to see what is going on in the other silos (and even within competing organizations). It takes some determined confidentiality practices to keep things secret if people really want to know. People leak information, and the main reason social networks don’t make more visible is it takes some sophisticated social skills to build relationships that engender trust and cooperation.
In addition, high power search engines – that don’t require high power skills – can be revealing. In particular, the emerging Semantic Web promises to make the language boundaries between people working in different disciplines much more permeable.
Finally, attitudes toward intellectual property have, for good or ill, become more relaxed. Mash-ups sanction originality by reimagining and recombining the insights, tools and creativity of others. If music companies waver in the face of this new perspective, it will not be surprising if those who try to build their careers by “owing” ideas and resources – when they really belong to the enterprise as a whole – find themselves successfully challenged by imaginative people in their organizations.
The erosion of this barrier makes the number one barrier – lack of funding – less formidable. Sharing resources and good ideas is a classic way to do more with less. However, technology isn’t entirely benign to the innovator. In particular, it seems to be more difficult to find enough time to innovation in our always connected world, and this will be the subject of a future entry in the blog.