By Craig Barbieri
Introducing an innovation in one’s firm is a little bit like the role of a salesperson(vendor/Rep/etc.) I would argue a very important role if you intend to be successful. Innovations seldomly sell themselves. There’s always someone in the line of approvals who doesn’t see the value. In a past life I was a salesman for a short period.
In the mid-90’s I was an account executive at a routing logistics software company, and I was responsible for the Northeast USA. I made “sales calls” and introduced value justifications for purchasing the innovative system of ours to trucking and delivery companies. The technology was so new that few people had even heard of computer routing, let alone had a computer doing anything for them in this regard. I wasn’t very good at selling the system but I learned a lot about sales and the drivers that lead to them. Now that the tables are turned, and I am typically on the purchasing side of things, I feel I have some very useful insight to help negotiate and get the best deals for my firm. On the other hand I am also in “sales” to some degree. I’m selling the partners on why we should spend gobs of money on something that they’ve never hear of or understand fully. I do this because I take ownership of the technological path of the company and see the “big picture” as it were.
Techniques with which to introduce and “sell” within our firms might be a good topic of discussion. DTS is a week away and we’ll be discussing Innovation and aspects surrounding it, among other things. Bring your own questions, challenges, ideas, and conundrums!
It’s a statement that gets thrown around every once in-awhile and was perhaps more in vogue historically than in current memory. Interestingly enough it comes from the title of a book “Innovate or Die : A Personal Perspective on the Art of Innovation” by Dr. Jack Matson; almost ten years earlier there was another book “Grow or Die” by George Land. Was the second influenced by the first; perhaps Land was a C-level business consultant putting forward a hypothesis around the nature of all things, organic, humanity, commerce being linked intrinsically around basic rules related to growth. You either grow, or die. Whereas Matson’s thesis was fail quickly and fail often as a means to be successful. Most interesting, Matson is an engineer by training, how many engineers do you know that go around preaching to their employees “we should fail on figuring out how to make this building stand-up”.
I’m being a bit facetious of course, arguably we fail every day as part of the process of designing a building or at least architects do, and I think the most successful engineers take a similar iterative approach. It’s far better for us to fail “on paper” than in the real world and undoubtedly Matson knew that when he wrote his book. We even try our hardest to fail in the real world before full construction by way of mock-ups, physical and now more and more virtual, with virtual reality gear and everything.
Obviously (if you’ve been reading any of our blog posts) you know by now that DTS’ theme this year is innovation and I think we’ve put together some really great topics to anchor our discussions (see our site for a full agenda). If we are by our nature innovative in our profession, that is attempting to fail until we find the right solution, what does that mean to us, to technology? Are we guaranteed to evolve? Are there consequences if we do not? Are there consequences for not being broadly innovative, so for example being “innovative” in how a project is designed, but failing to be innovative about the process that results in the design. Must you have both to be successful long term or can the innovation only happen in the results of practice and not the practice itself?
Practice itself is an interesting term unto itself, we “practice architecture” (or engineering, or law, or medicine) does the etymology itself imply Matson’s title? If we are always practicing, then do we ever compete, do we ever finish the race and what does that imply or mean in the context of innovation?
Are you scratching your head yet? If you are, then you belong with us at DTS in Toronto! We have a few spots left and we’d love to fill them. Please consider applying to attend through our registration process, if you’re keen to think hard and talk about what all this means and more then you belong with our group!
If we operate from the perspective that “true” innovation is something that is new “in the world” and has a significant impact, then it’s fair to say that most of us as individuals are not likely to reach what is a very high bar. That is just the realist in me talking, I’m not suggesting we should sulk away, giving up on any hope of being creative or coming up something new. Holding that goal in our eye is only likely to make us more successful rather than less (in my opinion). So, if alone we are not likely to meet that rather high bar, what are we to do (by the way, someone will, and if you don’t try, it won’t be you)? One of the first things we can do is look at organizations or people who have met that bar, and perhaps even seek their opinions and thoughts. Continue reading “Innovation + Plus One?”