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Why IT departments must reinvent themselves: Part 3

In continuation from my previous blogs (Parts 1 and 2), I write about the direction we intend to take with Workspaces. In this part, I offer my thoughts on the perennial debate around what is BAU and what is innovation. I have recently been a part of several conversations that have led me to believe that confusion exists within a team like Workspaces where the majority of the work is BAU.

I hosted a workshop on innovation at a team offsite sometime ago which was really useful in discovering what the team thought of innovation and some of the challenges and opportunities they perceived. Although the team has changed a lot since then, when I look at the notes from the workshop, I believe some of the perceptions about innovation remain same. How interesting!

I have been recently interviewed on my thoughts on innovation and also took part in a global IT survey for innovation (hosted outside of ThoughtWorks). It was a good time to reminisce on my thoughts on innovation. I present some of these thoughts to you:
  • Innovation is a culture of thinking differently and challenging oneself to do things differently
  • Failures in innovation is great learning and offers important lessons
  • Successful innovations often result in reduction of time while doing the same work, reduces effort taken towards any task, saves cost or improves quality
  • Innovation does not only mean building a product or an app or a software but also innovation in process, service or pretty much everything you see around
Innovation doesn't only happen in the NASAs and ISROs of the world. It happens in smaller bits around you that will help you solve your daily problems and issues. We just need to build a curious mind and challenge status quo to think about innovation and ideas that can improve things for us and around us.

With so much focus on innovation, does it mean the BAU is not appreciated? What about those of us who enjoy our work?

Well, the answer to this is partly yes and partly no. Let me explain. Yes, because if we continue to do the same and routine work over and over again, the value of that depreciates over a period of time and we have to think of doing the same work differently or keep questioning why we are doing it. No, because there will always be some work that we will have to continue doing to keep the lights on.

And let’s be honest, it’s a vicious circle. For things around you to change and become better, you need time and because you are so busy with day to day work, you just don’t have time to think or act or even suggest improvement.   

In my opinion, the change will not start unless we really want to change and think of getting out of doing ‘only’ routine stuff. In some ways, we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone to think about and bring a change around us.

Lots of us have ideas and most of them are really good. Talking about the idea in a social forum and within the team is the first step towards thinking about the change. Being accepting of someone else’s idea and contributing through discussions is another thing that helps us follow and think about the change.  

Why IT departments must reinvent themselves: Part 3

I also believe that the best ideas will come from people who are closest to the problems. The success of the idea will truly be dependent on how participative we can make it for everyone. I believe that with ‘Workspaces Global Ideas’, we have taken the first step to share our ideas.The showcases that we schedule have the potential to become one of the most important tech showcases within ThoughtWorks, if we do them right. So, in summary, I feel that innovation will come from people around us, who are looking at the same things differently. BAU is important and so is innovation, but they are not mutually exclusive. You can not do one ignoring the other.

For TechOps, 'innovation' means not accepting the way things are, especially if it can be better for our customers and ourselves. It could be an incremental improvement or a disruptive game-changer. Either way, innovation really should be our business as usual. We hope TechOps will increasingly incorporate a true learning culture where we are always observing and experimenting together.