If you have been in business and technology as long as I have, then you are a survivor and congratulations! But beyond that, you know that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
The publications I read use the same nouns and verbs du jour to describe a lot of the same things we were doing back in the old mainframe, IBM 370 days. I have been through most of the modern-day methodologies from Six Sigma and DMAIC to Lean Start-up. And it is certainly true that the way of doing business has changed greatly over the years, but the value is still value.
Nobody called Al Zipf a disruptor, but before UBER there was ERMA, (Electronic Recording Machine Accounting). He and IBM developed this system for Bank of America that read the little numbers on checks and reduced check processing time by 80%. Now that’s disruption with value!
My own father disrupted the sail making business back in the 30’s by being the first to use microwave welding to build sails. His competitors we still sewing them together. His innovation cut production of a sail down from a week to half a day. He did this for different products many times over the next few decades.
My father was what is today called a “serial entrepreneur”. However, that is not the way he saw himself. He did what he did on his own by force. Because companies at that time did not have the foresight to encourage change. To create a nurturing environment for innovation and creativity. And failure often came with dismissal and shame. Bank of America benefitted greatly by Al Zipf’s innovative thinking.
Imagine if the sailing company my father was working for had embraced his idea to partner with this young German Engineer working on different applications of microwave technology. Imagine the profits from overnight becoming the market leader in San Francisco at that time. A great port city. Alas, my father capitalized and created his own legacy and the sailing company became a footnote to his story.
Today, most corporations understand that they not only should have but absolutely need to have innovative and creative people working on their behalf. So, they endeavor to create an environment that invites and encourages new, disruptive ideas.
But, how do you do that? How do embrace failure as an inevitable ingredient to change? How do you change behavior in upper management? How do you inject this way of thinking deep into your culture? This is where they often struggle.
BlueCrest College and the Center for Professional and Entrepreneurial Development (CPED) offers a course aimed at helping companies alter the paradigm and create the kind of culture where this way of thinking is not only accepted and supported but rewarded. If you want to change the world, you have to be ready to change yourself. Find out how at BlueCrest CPED.
The writer is the Head of Centre for Professional and Entrepreneurial Development, BlueCrest College, Accra.