About this Author
Gwen Smith Ishmael, Sr. Vice President of Insights and Innovation at Decision Analyst in Arlington, TX, has led marketing and new product development activities in the CPG and technology industries since 1986. She also conceived and developed ground-breaking Web-based promotional vehicles, two of which are patent pending. Gwen holds an MBA in Marketing and is a featured speaker on insights and innovation around the world. Her writings have been featured in international text books, most recently in Managing 4 Ps of Marketing FMCG Sector, and Product Innovation: A Strategic Tool for Growth, by ICFAI Publications, 2006 and 2007, respectively.

Founding Author

Renee Hopkins Callahan Renee Hopkins Callahan started IdeaFlow and serves as chief blog-wrangler. She is Director of Innovation Services at Decision Analyst in Arlington, Texas, is a former journalist who worked as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News and the Nashville Tennessean, and was managing editor of D, the Dallas city magazine. She has a master's degree in rhetoric and has also taught college-level English and informal logic.
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline


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April 17, 2006

Technology's role in innovation

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

Egils Milbergs of Accelerating Innovation has posted on IBM's Business Leadership Forum, held in Rome in early April. His post included a this quote about technology and innovation:

"Technology plays a leading role in innovation, but it isn't the only factor. What were once disruptive technologies now are commodities. Technology can be the establishing base for innovation, but people are the ones that drive it forward. Technology is really only the mechanics of the process. Real innovation is about great people generating and then implementing new ideas."

Granted, I like this quote because it reinforces what I believe about innovation. But I also like it because of the recent research I've done on innovation drivers. A long-ago conversation on IdeaFlow featured a debate on what actually drives innovation, and a great many people were insistent that it all comes down to *people*. I agreed then, but still saw the value in talking about what specific conditions of possiblity were driving those people who were driving innovation.

This quote about technology and innovation to my mind puts technology where it should be -- in the hands of people who can do something useful with it.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology


1. saul kaplan on April 21, 2006 6:56 AM writes...

Renee I agree with you. Technology is rarely the limiting factor preventing innovation. It is almost always us humans and the organizations we live in both stubbornly resistent to change. If innovation is a better way to deliver value we need more emphasis on exploring and testing new business models. Business model innovation particularly networked business models that cut across the public and private sector and industry boundaries will lead to big value creating opportunities and solutions to the real issues of our time including education, healthcare, public safety, and quality of life. I believe that companies need to do R&D for new business models the same way they do R&D for new products today. We created the non profit Business Innovation Factory as a platform to enable collaborative innovation and to leverage Rhode Island as a real world test bed for new business models.

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2. Ben Simonton on April 29, 2006 4:29 PM writes...

Agreed. Technology is but a tool. Whether or not it leads to innovation will be determined by one or more people.

The determining factor in each person is whether they feel a "sense of ownership" for whatever they are doing because that determines to what extent their brain is fully functioning or not. All creativity and innovation comes from a person's brain. With no "sense of ownership" there is no caring and thus no reason to apply one's brain to the effort at hand. Conversely, with a strong "sense of ownership", one's brain will most likely be applied on a continuous basis whether physically at work or not. That's how real innovation occurs.

So the critical question is what controls an employee's "sense of ownership"? Can it be ordered? Can it be given? The answer to the last two questions is a resounding NO. "A sense of ownership" can only be developed by the person herself and by no one else.

Can management cause an employee to develop it, possibly through the person's work environment? Yes, yes a thousand times yes. In fact, for about 95% of all employees, the workplace environment is in almost total control of their innovation by either frustrating them or releasing them to the power of their own motivations.

Best regards, Ben Simonton
Author "Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed"

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3. Michael Urlocker on May 2, 2006 7:56 AM writes...


I thought this was an interesting post. Having worked with many engineers at many tech firms, I have also seen the excessive focus on technology as main source of innovation. Yet, this is only a small part of what can drive innovation.

I like the discussion. As a courtesy, do you mind if I link this to my blog?


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