There seems to be a lot of confusion about change. We change our socks; we might change from a barber to a hair stylist. Yet is this really the type of change we are talking about in business? As a business grows it goes through several stages of growth. Each growth stage causes the business to change as the business grows more efficient. Yet has the business really changed? A mail carrier is still a mail carrier whether the mail is delivered by walking, riding a horse or carrying the mail in a truck. Yet are these types of change innovations? The modern network architect should be an expert in change. Much of the change within a company starts with the IT group. What does it mean for the technology architect to innovate true change within the organization?
Efficiency means doing the same thing a little better. With each change in efficiency the process works just a little more effectively. Innovation means doing things a completely different way. A good example is comparing the propeller driven air plane with the Jet Engine.
From World War I to almost the end of World War 2 the P-51 was arguably the pinnacle design for the single engine propeller driven plane. The point was reached where the system could not be made more efficient. In able to build a more efficient plane the whole thinking process around flight had to be re-thought. The replacement was the Jet Engine aircraft. The Jet engine became a true innovation over the modern propeller driven plane. Eventually a business will reach an optimal level of efficiency. In order to compete within an industry the organization needs to stop doing what they were doing and re-think the entire process.
We see this in several industries today, but most obvious is the newspaper industry. Today there is more demand for information than ever before. The newspaper industry is an information reseller. It would make sense that of all the industries in what has been called the information age, the newspaper industry would be best suited to compete. Yet when we look at the newspaper industry we see an eerie similarity between the rise and fall of the P-51 and the modern printing press.
If the United States Air force had decided to invest in the P-51 throughout the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and until today without considering the innovation of jet engine air craft the United States military would have fallen behind militarily to every country investing in Jet Engine technology.
Every business will need eventually grow to a point where efficiency is no longer cost effective. Innovation then replaces the old way of doing things. True change is more than just gaining efficiency. True change means replacing the old system with something completely different. Industries like the newspaper industry whose focus of distributing information through paper media will fall behind and be replaced. It follows then that every business must first build efficiencies to compete. By the same token once the business has reached the maximum level of efficiency must innovate to grow.
Modern network architects must understand that innovation doesn’t mean doing things more efficiently is not the end result. Eventually a rethinking of the way information is managed distributed and communicated completely changes the way everything is done. We are still in the first pioneering stages of digital information distribution. Very few industries are innovating with technology. Instead most businesses are using technology to build efficiencies in the old way of doing things. Stepping from thinking about a completely different way of doing things seems easy. Yet the reality is that moving from efficiency to innovation is one of the most difficult stages of growth.