Friday, March 2, 2012

Does Architecture Put the No in Innovation?

I cannot hide my love for gadgetry, technical wizardry, or miniaturized electronics. I still have an Apple Newton, a Palm Pilot, and even a Rex PC - a PDA so small (think business card size) it slid into the PCMCIA slot in the side of your other PDAs and synchronized with your email, calendar, and task list. The Rex PC was just one dangley thread on the wool suit of emerging technology, circa 2000.

While a lover of technology in general, I am not particularly fond of the rapid rate of change. As soon as I get a new toy productivity solution home, it begins the rapid decline into humor fodder - resulting in an inability to integrate, synchronize, or upgrade, thus rendering my once-impressive array of techno-hipsterness into a hidden collection of useless digital dust collectors.

I still hold out hope that during some unimaginable disaster, I alone will have the one combination of elderWare that will save mankind, not unlike the invisible bacteria that saved Earth in "War of the Worlds."

Innovation. I just love the new and novel, which might mean my current role of Enterprise Architect is somewhat of an apparent contradiction. After all, doesn't my job make me the Sargent of Arms for corporate standards? Don’t I speak Innovatum-non-grata from the Holy Book of Principles and Practices. Am I not responsible to ensure we always reuse the infrastructure, compenentry, and assets into which we have poured untold dollars, time, and careers? Do I not put the No in Innovation?

The truth be told, I happen to believe that standards and innovation go hand an hand. Standards, operating practices, Business Accelerators, and common reusable assets foster, rather than inhibit, innovation.

Consider northern Nigeria in the late 1990's. The lack of suitable refrigeration literally killed people and destroyed opportunities for social and economic progress. Mohammed Bah Abba, a business man and college lecturer used a combination of two clay pots, one inside the other, separated by wet river sand to create a cooler. As moisture in the gap evaporates from the outer pot towards the dry desert air, the temperature in the inner pot decreases.

His solution, while highly innovative, used the resources that were readily available.

Standards, assets, and practices can be thought of as structures that facilitate the expression of creativity. Think of your favorite song or musical genre. Take a moment and ponder your music library, your iPod, or your albums. Even though music is bound by a finite number of notes, chords, keys, and of course the notion of rhythm, it is still considered a boundless avenue for creativity.

Standards are not an obstacle to innovation; standards, structure, shared assets - these are the facilitators of innovation!

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