Phil McKinney’s podcast on Finding and Keeping Innovation Champions got me to thinking about a client project I recently completed. The deliverable included a model for assessing an organization’s readiness to adopt technology-enabled collaboration tools.
Not surprisingly, one of the elements for adoption readiness we identified was existence of a champion to promote collaboration in the organization or department most affected. This is basically what McKinney argues for: someone who will stand in front of management with “hair on fire” extolling — with passion — the innovation.
This is not the same as the all-important “management champion” who provides money, cover, resources, and political support. Here we’re talking about someone who has heart and soul invested in an idea and will see to it that the idea is successfully promoted.
Is the same need for “passion” true with collaboration with innovation?
I’m not sure. McKinney’s usually talks about innovation in terms of innovative products. What if the innovation we’re talking about is a technology-enabled process whose goal — like collaboration — is to get people working together to accomplish a common goal more/better/faster? Will the same comments about the importance of “passion” hold?
Theoretically, yes. In real world terms, it will depend. The end goal of a process is, after all, to support the accomplishment of an objective.
Being passionate about the process without being impacted with the prospective success or failure of the goal the process supports seems problematic to me. It’s one thing to be a product or service evangelist in a market whose job it is to develop awareness, community involvement, or receptivity to a new product or service. It’s another thing to be on the spot within an organization for making sure an infrastructure service supports a variety of business processes.
Perhaps more important than passion for driving innovative collaboration within an organization is involvement and investment of an individual in the success of the process that is being supported by collaboration. This is one of the reasons why it may not always make sense for the IT department to drive a project that implements collaboration software or social networking tools within an organization. IT often doesn’t “own” responsibility for the processes its resources support.
It may be more reasonable to expect the business people most affected by a process to be “passionate” about its success. It will therefore be up to them to apply some of this passion to seeing to it that the collaboration-related software and improved business processes IT is supporting are, in fact, successful.