Innovation and Influencer Overload? What to do?

December 30

In my search for organizations directly involved in the IT innovation ecosystem, I Googled for hours by scrambling search word permutations like “IT Innovation” or “IT R&D” or “Information Technology Innovation” etc.   The results were a little disappointing:  Little truly specific to “IT Innovation” bubbled up, though the Web swarms with sites about “Innovation” in general.  So I spent some time perusing those sites.  It proved rather overwhelming and nearly fruitless – it was a painstaking process to separate useful sites from site fallow, dead or merely short stabs at discussing how important or cool “innovation” is.  There were so many “innovation” (not “IT innovation”) sites out there that there were several “innovation” aggregation sites – sites about innovations sites.

Strangely plenty came up on IT history though; it kind of scared me that “IT innovation history” yielded more direct site results, more on the side of history than innovation, than plain old “IT innovation.”  Since my first IT job began 37+ years ago, back in the days of “EDP” (IT was not yet the common name for the industry), has it been too long?  Have I managed to live through and past the glory days of IT innovation?

At the same time I noticed roughly a zillion blogs on IT out there, including plenty from “branded” industry analysts (Gartner, Forrester, IDC, etc.), independent analysts and other “influencers” e.g. consultants or press or vendor evangelists who put their point-of-view into the IT “echo chamber.”  There is so much commentary out there, way more than can be consumed, and undoubtedly most of it half-baked.  Has it come down to the loudest versus the most knowledgeable, so Bill O’Reilly wins over Charlie Rose? (of course we know that Bill O’Reilly actually wins over nobody).

Stop the Overload:  Energy Star for IT Innovation and Influencers

First of all, we do not need another blog or site on innovation in general, mine included.  No more blogging please on the beauty of the process of innovation, that it is cool, that it will save the world, that collaboration between innovators yields uh innovative thinking (!), that innovators themselves are cool, that if you don’t wear a propeller beanie, virtual or physical, you are a lout, a low IQ create-nothing that should bow down to the ground each lucky day you share this life and earth with innovators.  We need more brilliant burger flippers, tailors, sailors and card dealers than we need more people trumpeting innovation.

Second, like them or hate them, the branded analyst firms have standards, many of the other “influencers” do not.  Your garden variety everyday Gartner analyst spends times talking directly to IT practitioners every week, often every business day, hears what pains IT, learns directly about IT’s successes and failures.  The branded firm analysts actually perform primary and secondary research to various degrees, meaning they run surveys of IT people asking them about what they plan to do next, what vendors they like better, and such.  And they build benchmarks, comparing vendors, vendor offerings, growth rates, market shares, etc., with some kind of structured and at least semi-objective approach.

Some of the other “influencers” out there just come up with an opinion, never testing that opinion in the face of anybody doing anything real in IT, call it random editorializing.  Some of the other “influencers” out there just take money from vendors, and become channels of publication for the vendors.  Pay for play?  Absolutely, 100% pure and unadulterated.

So to the people really performing IT innovation on the front lines, in the Labs, in the Development teams, and to the true IT “analysts” out there I pay homage – you are practitioners, the real things.  To you quasi-innovators (overly-creatively loving innovation) and quasi-influencers (uninformed opinions for a quarter or just because), well here is a solution: We need an “Energy Star” rating for innovators and influencers – and their blogs.  That way I could, for example, simply Google “IT innovation energy star” and could immediately discount anything past Page 1 of the search results.

Wouldn’t that be innovative!

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