Innovation isn’t about treating technology as a silver bullet
- Applied Research investigates and shares knowledge about technologies that can enable or accelerate innovation, such as machine learning, blockchain, and modern application development patterns, tools, and architectures.
- Innovation isn’t about using technology as a “silver bullet,” it’s about forming creative solutions through the application of technology, process, and new insights and ideas.
With #innovationday coming and going at the beginning of February, I thought this would be a great opportunity to write about innovation and my #ellucianLife.
I joined Ellucian (then SCT) in 1997 to help the organization successfully make the transition to object-oriented development. Yes, I know it’s hard for you younger folks to understand, but adopting object-orientation was a difficult paradigm shift that required significant organizational investment and effort. Fortunately, we haven’t had to change again since then, and we now rest comfortably on our laurels. No? Of course, I’m kidding...
I became the first technical fellow at Ellucian in 2016, after serving in various technical and managerial roles. And I am still learning. Which is what I love about working in technology. If you want to learn about the technical fellow role at Ellucian, please read Becoming a Technical Fellow by Shane Riddell, who is a colleague of mine. But don’t leave yet!
Today I work within Ellucian’s Applied Research, a small team of architects with complementary strengths whose purpose is to foster innovation. But what does that mean? Are we the sole “creatives” chartered to come up with all the new ideas? Do our peers patiently wait for innovations to drip out of our virtual team room? Fortunately, no.
Ellucian’s Applied Research is a dedicated group focused on fostering this innovation activity and assessing emerging technologies. We run our innovation labs at corporate headquarters in Reston, Virginia and in Bangalore, India to showcase advances in technology that can enable innovation. The Innovation Lab includes the “Dorm Room of the Future” exhibit that provides a glimpse into a future where technology blends seamlessly into a student’s life. The Innovation Lab includes hands-on demonstrations of augmented reality (to walk through a heart, or an office building), and a robot that could allow a student to participate in classroom activities even when remote. Ellucian developers can participate in workshops held at various offices. For instance, I recently led an after-hours workshop discussing microservices architecture and serverless.
Applied Research investigates and shares knowledge about technologies that can enable or accelerate innovation, such as machine learning, blockchain, and modern application development patterns, tools, and architectures. For example, facial recognition algorithms allow innovations such as Apple Face ID that simply would not be possible before. I’m sure you can think of many applications within higher education that would be possible with facial recognition, perhaps to automate attendance tracking or to provide real-time feedback to a professor when students are becoming confused.
This does not imply these technologies create innovation. In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins mentions that “across 84 good-to-great executives, fully 80 percent didn’t even mention technology as one of the top five factors in the transformation,” and “the good-to-great companies used technology as an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.” I think this is important. Innovation isn’t about using technology as a “silver bullet,” it’s about forming creative solutions through the application of technology, process, and new insights and ideas.
I believe the successful execution of an innovative idea requires the existence of enabling technology, a culture that promotes communication and creativity and that accepts failures as necessary explorations, and a team staffed with the right creative and courageous people—and perhaps a little good luck doesn’t hurt. I think Ellucian is very well positioned.
Ellucian’s Applied Research focuses on helping our peers prepare and execute by demonstrating the use of enabling technologies and fostering thought. And that is a rewarding job, and my #ellucianLife.