How Ketchup Breeds Innovation

Okay, stick with me here. Where do you store your ketchup, in the fridge or in the cupboard?

Turns out where you are from makes a world of difference. If you are British or from the US South, you are a cupboard person. Otherwise if you are from anywhere else in the world, you are a fridge person.

So what? Well, if you run out of ketchup, what’s your backup? For fridge people, it is what’s in the fridge, mainly mayo or mustard. The cupboard people? They reach for the malt vinegar. Thank goodness, because I could not imagine eating fish & chips with mustard.

While this tidbit might seem trivial, it reveals a much more important understanding about the way people think. When you bring many different perspectives and backgrounds together, you create an environment where novel ideas can flourish that would otherwise never have been considered.

Why? Because you only visualize solutions based on your prior experience. When you expand the pool of problem solvers to include people with a different set of experiences, you accelerate the cross-pollination of ideas. As the host in the Reply All podcast states:

The more diverse the backgrounds, the more associations you get, and the more paths to solving the problem.

Many companies tout their innovation efforts. However, in practice, the way organizations are structured makes this difficult. The modern corporation is built in the Frederick Winslow Taylor template; highly efficient silos, structured work, tightly regimented. The result is that critical information is cordoned off in small teams, never spreading out to the whole.

Crowdsourcing emerged to give us a better way to bring ideas together. For example, GitHub is the largest global repository of code. Stack Overflow is the world’s largest crowdsourced database of programming questions & answers. For companies to truly unleash innovation, they will need to create a culture of collaboration that reaches across teams in the same way crowdsourcing works on the public Internet.

While there are a lot of opinions on how to spur collaboration, might I suggest the best place to start? How about with the folks that are already used to collaborating and sharing and problem solving? Hint, it’s the folks that are building the systems that enable the business to compete and win.

What are you doing to help developers work smarter and solve problems faster? How do developers share code and content today?

Are decals on a personal laptop unprofessional?

I for one love stickers on laptops, the more the better

We help IT leaders in enterprises solve the cultural challenges involved in digital transformation and move towards a community based culture that delivers innovation and customer value faster. Learn more about our work here.

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