Terrible Innovator #1: The Gadgeteer

The following is a brief excerpt from Innovation and the Future Proof Bank, my text on corporate innovation. I identify six archetypes you should watch out for, and the first is “The Gadgeteer”.  From Chapter 9:

When you have an innovator who focuses most of their time on the latest and greatest technological thing, you are likely to have a gadgeteer. A gadget is a deceptively dangerous thing for an innovator. On the one hand, it seems the new thing (if only it could be sold correctly to stakeholders) would be a fantastic addition to the innovation portfolio. But on the other, there is practically no way to tie whatever-it-is back to any business problem.

This is the hallmark of the gadgeteer – a pursuit of new things without any conceptualisation of what business problem is being solved.

Gadgeteers are dangerous for innovation teams because they burn influence at a fast rate. It only takes one poor meeting with a stakeholder (who will likely ask ‘So what?’) to close that door to innovators thereafter. A door slammed in one’s face is one less avenue for the future to get predictability in the innovation portfolio.

But the worst thing about having a gadgeteer around is they reinforce a stereotype that an innovation programme must try to undo as quickly as possible: that innovation is about way-out things with little relevance to the business.

Whenever you spot an innovator continuously wasting influence pushing something that has no direct bearing on a business problem, its time to call it a day.

I’ll post the remaining 5 archetypes over December.

Reprinted from Innovation and the Future Proof Bank, published by John Wiley & Sons. Copyright 2009.

3 Responses to“Terrible Innovator #1: The Gadgeteer”

  1. December 7, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    The Gagdeteer is IMO the greatest danger to Innovation (and to IT as a whole). The magpie-like attraction to the shiny in preference to the useful and the tunnel vision "solution looking for a problem" mentality is one of the key things that undermines the value of genuinely useful innovation (and genuinely useful technology).
    The very worst danger with a gadgeteer is that in focussing on the shiny "exciting" elements of a solution they may well create a level of cynicism that blinds others to the true value of the solution in question.
    Regards
    The Enterprising Architect

  2. D Shea
    December 8, 2009 at 2:53 am #

    I constantly fight my inner gadgeteer. I've found that a focus on utility helps. If you truly focus on the problem and trying to come up with the most cost effective and feasible solution you can talk yourself off the gadget ledge. Just looking & playing with gadgets can be fun too. 😀

  3. December 11, 2009 at 7:51 pm #

    @D Shea There are likely few of us working in IT that do not to some extent have an "inner gadgeteer" and, yes, a focus on utility does seem to help.
    The attraction to shiny is something that Microsoft, to name but one of numerous vendors, mercilessly exploits. Particularly in the desktop area, where they have delivered little, if any, true innovation for quite some time. Shiny/gadgets help sugar coat the bitter pill of the needless end-of-life and vendor-driven upgrade cycle, and to distract us from the layer upon layer of sticking plasters attempting to fix a broken architecture.
    Enterprise development tools are another gingerbread house, designed to lure in the gadgeteer developer and needlessly lock your organisation into the Acme Inc way of delivering systems.

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