Innovation is something that cannot entirely be scheduled. It is possible to plan to do innovation work (the key word being work). One can allocate time to work on a strategic innovation plan, or a particular deliverable for a given product development project. But actual innovation cannot be planned. Innovation happens when it happens.

We have plenty of systems to help us do innovation work. We can schedule meetings, conduct virtual brainstorming sessions,  run idea campaigns, manage innovation projects, manage and balance portfolios, investigate and explore innovation portfolios, and perform what-if analyses.  One important distinction among these systems is whether the work is scheduled or ad-hoc.

A virtual brainstorming session is scheduled. A meeting to review or agree initiatives is scheduled. A meeting to discuss project execution is scheduled.

Submission of an idea is unscheduled. Collaboration around an idea or a project is unscheduled. Reaction to something heard or observed is unscheduled.

The IT systems you use have to “be there” when innovation happens, whether scheduled or not. The scheduled work, by its nature, typically includes the IT systems that support that work. You sit at your computer, open excel, and compose a financial analysis or a technology assessment. You use a virtual meeting place, or a physical conference room, to conduct a meeting. You read your email at your desk.

But what about the unscheduled work: the idea that comes while you are in the shower; the realization that you forgot to make an assignment to an individual on your team; the sudden status report that you would like to enter into the IT system?  All of these must unfortunately wait until you are back at your computer. Or do they?

Waiting until you are back at your computer and logged in the innovation system is fraught with problems. You might forget by the time you are back in front of your computer (unless you called and left yourself a voicemail). And there is the cost of the delay – it slows down the performance of your innovation.

Mobile technology can change this. If you have access to your innovation system at the point you need it, you can immediately take advantage of opportunities as they arise. You can capture an idea right away, so you don’t forget it. And your colleagues can immediately see your idea and begin to enhance it. You can make that project assignment and then put the thought out of your mind, putting yourself at ease. You can write that status report while it is fresh in your mind and thus free up your mind to innovate further rather than tying to remember and staying focused on the work to be done next time you happen to get to your computer.

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