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Innovation in a Vacuum


I have the privilege of being Avoka’s “Chief Innovation Officer”.

Great title, but what does that really mean?

I believe that innovation doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The best ideas don’t spontaneously occur when a bunch of people stand around in white coats thinking innovative thoughts. Ideas are generated in response to problems in an environment. This is not a negative approach – it’s a practical and valuable one. I want to make sure we innovate in the areas that solve the most important problems for the greatest number of customers.

In order to do my job, I therefore need to immerse myself in the environment (ie the Avoka community), and understand the problems that are occurring in that environment.

  • Meet. I need to travel around the world and talk to people who use the Avoka platform. This includes our own staff and increasingly our customers and partners.
  • Listen. I listen, and form impressions of what the most common problems are. I try to condense these into candidates for innovation.
  • Challenge. I ask our users for their ideal solutions – often the best solutions come from the people who are intimate with the problem. I will also often try to give you choices to help clarify and prioritize – if we were to work on either “A” or “B”, which one would you choose?
  • Contribute. Occasionally I may come up with an idea or two of my own, based on your feedback plus my broad knowledge of the Avoka platform. But I always try to “fact-check” these ideas with real developers.
  • Execute. I convey these ideas to the Avoka product team and help to prioritize them.

Great Ideas

Most of us learnt that Calculus was developed in the mid 17th century by Isaac Newton. However, Gottfried Leibniz developed it at the same time, and completely independently. Similarly, we usually credit Charles Darwin for coming up with the theory of evolution. But Alfred Wallace came up with the same idea, independently, at the same time. Great ideas evolve in response to a problem, not in a vacuum. And that’s why I need to hit the road and meet up with our customers and partners, who are working at the coal face with our products.

Along the way, I also hear about projects that have gone well, as well as those that have occasionally not gone so well. I try to share my impressions so that everyone can learn from both the successes as well as the mistakes of various projects, as well as providing input into our services teams for innovation in delivery.

In future blogs, I will be sharing some of the problems I’ve encountered, and the innovations that we are contemplating. Not all of these will necessarily end up seeing the light of day, but I would appreciate your feedback. I will also report on the success factors of different teams using the Avoka platform.

I would like to hear from you and your team. Please contact me, and let’s find a time and place to talk. I can’t guarantee to see you immediately; but meeting and listening to you is a key part of my job and will contribute to giving both you and all our customers an even better platform.


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