10 Questions That Can Help You Be More Innovative At Work

As an individual contributor, first line manager, or IT executive, you can help drive innovation within your organization simply by using old technologies in new ways.

As an example, I was at a great NEECOM Conference (New England Electronic Commerce Users’ Group) in Westborough, MA last week and Zander Livingston was speaking on how RFID tags are used by retail companies to track and manage store and warehouse inventories. His talk got me thinking about how this technology could be used by IT organizations and other office-based organizations. I came up with the following potential use:

• If equipment theft, such as laptops, is an issue in your office building, place tags on all your laptops and put RFID readers near the exits. Then, when a laptop is reported stolen, you can track where and when the laptop left the building. The information can then be combined with standard video surveillance cameras and you can see who left the building, exactly at that time, presumably with one or more company laptops in tow.

This is one small example of how you can combine existing technologies that your company may already own, to inexpensively drive innovative solutions to difficult problems within your IT organization and throughout your company.

Below are 10 questions that you can ask yourself that may help you drive innovation within your organization:

1. How are other industries using technologies that your company currently owns? 2. What technologies are your competitors using that are giving them a competitive edge against your company? 3. How can you combine two or more technologies your company owns in creative ways to solve business problems? 4. What open source software projects can be inexpensively integrated into your existing infrastructure in a secure way that helps IT or organizational productivity? 5. If budget was not an issue, what could you do to improve/enhance your technical environment? Then, how can you do it less expensively? 6. Are there any technical or business processes that could/should be done more efficiently? If so, how? 7. What technologies are we currently using that should be phased out to make budget dollars available for new innovative initiatives? 8. What can I personally do to help foster an innovative company culture? Can it be started today? 9. What measurements can you use to show the return on investment of your innovative ideas? 10. If you knew you would not fail, what innovation would you try to implement at your company? Then, is there a way you can minimize the risk of failure on the project?

My next challenge to you is to expand on this list of questions based on your job, your technical profession, your job level, your areas of ability, and your areas of interest. Then ask yourself this combined set of questions on an ongoing basis. With a little luck and a great idea, you can make an incredible contribution to your company, and in turn, in your own professional future.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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