These meetups are always very busy and packed with women (plus a few men) interested in learning more about the technology industry. They’re also a good opportunity to meet new people.
‘Innovation’ is a word frequently used in the tech industry. It’s one of those terms that’s so vague it amounts to little more than jargon.
But the purpose of this meetup was to discuss the real value of the term ‘innovation’ and what it means to leaders in the north-west digital industry.
The meaning of innovation
Jason Taylor, who is General Manager at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Innovation Service, is naturally an expert on innovation.
At Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, they eliminated the hospital smell and designed it so it doesn’t look like a hospital. They call this innovation because it is totally new and was designed with the input of their young patients.
Michael Shorter, Senior Creative Technologist at Uniform (a self-styled design and innovation company) is passionate about innovation.
“My job is about using design to make something better,” says Michael.
For example, they created a radio that plays music based on a user’s mood, not to sell, but to inspire other companies to see the possibilities of changing music technology.
Working within restrictions
Aine McGuire, Head of Business Development at Sensible Code, had a story to share on the topic of data innovation.
The Office of National Statistics is one of Sensible Code’s clients, and they naturally have serious regulations to follow when it comes to data protection. It’s these restrictions that Sensible Code has to work around when it comes to innovation for the ONS.
“The biggest threat to the ONS is if they leak data,” says Aine. So they came up with a way that the ONS could innovatively share data with the public without compromising security.
Danielle Haugedal-Wilson is Head of Business Architecture and Analysis at Co-Op Digital and she says, “Historically, Co-Op has always been about innovation.
“People who didn’t have much money couldn’t access the radio in the early days, so Co-Op remade the radio more cheaply. It changed an industry, although some companies weren’t happy about it because they wanted to keep prices high. “People may not know about our rich history doing this sort of stuff.”
Recipe for innovation
Matt says, “You need a diversity of minds working on the project. Also, have an attitude where you embrace failure, and learn from it.”
Jason says, “Create from the viewpoint of your user. Be careful about the language you use, and avoid buzzwords.” (Like innovation, perhaps!).
Danielle says, “Create an environment where ideas can come through.”
Jo Morfee, Director of Liverpool Girl Geeks, says, “We think of Liverpool Girl Geels as innovators providing after-school education to help fill the digital skills gap. We’ve spotted a need and we’re passionate about what we’re doing.”
Diversity = innovation
While there is no sure recipe for successful innovation, diversity has a big role to play. It’s a hot topic, but even more so in recent months after an ex-Google employee wrote a ‘manifesto’ questioning the abilities of female programmers.
Danielle says philosophically, “You could have a whole team of men and still have diversity. It’s about perspectives.”
A lack of diversity costs money.
Aine argues, “It’s easier to spend a lot of money making software than it is to make software that makes a lot of money.”
Some people resist innovation because it means change. How should you deal with this resistance?
“Take people along for the journey,” says Danielle. “Give them time to forget their habits and muscle memories.”
“I’d feel like I wasn’t innovating properly if someone, somewhere, didn’t object to what I was doing,” says Jason.
There you have it. Innovation is more than just a buzzword, but there’s no easy way to be at the forefront of technological change.
Keep an open mind. Be sensitive to resistance. Enhance your perspective.
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