DNA-StrandI've been reading "The Innovator's DNA," an interesting book about how companies can set themselves up to be better through what they call 'disruptive innovation.' I don't think this is an entirely new concept because there have certainly been plenty of innovations created my many companies, and those companies have thrived and grown. What's different in this book is that it provides specific traits and actions that companies can take to find and develop people who can make a difference.

In the supply chain there is plenty of room for innovation even if they come along very infrequently. Probably the biggest innovation was EDI itself. Not the formal X12 spec, but the notion that there could be a standardized format for communicating information about orders and products. It could be argued that the VAN was the next big innovation, but to me the VAN was simply born out of the necessity to send EDI data between trading partners. The next and most recent innovation (though it wasn't exclusively about the supply chain) was SaaS/Cloud based services. The idea of moving the complexities of managing EDI processes outside the walls of the company and into a shared environment where multiple companies could share the reduced costs is a stellar example of innovation.

But those are more global innovations that affect multiple companies. The challenge remains today for individual companies to find ways to innovate for competitive advantage. Supply chain and EDI doesn't always fall under the IT department, but the technology that powers the systems is the same stuff that IT deals with as a core competency. Here's a comment from NetEnrich's CEO who deals with innovation and IT issues for his company.

“IT leaders need to be more effective. Despite considerable investment in people, process and technologies, IT has not gotten better. IT now faces additional opportunity and risk due to complexity brought about by new world technology such as cloud, virtualization and mobility, as well as a heightened business demand for innovation,” said Raju Chekuri, President and CEO of NetEnrich. “The old world reactive approach to infrastructure and operations management does not meet these new demands and expectations. IT must find a new approach to address these challenges, mitigate risk, and drive innovation with the launch of its Intelligent Business Innovation framework.”  

Managing risk and creating a framework in which innovation can be leveraged is a long term endeavor. Set a plan and understand what to look for and how to nurture employees to make the next great innovation.
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