Innovation and The IS Hierarchy of Needs


Recently I have had the opportunity to attend a number of presentations on innovation.  As I listened my mind wandered (as it often does) and I began to wonder what does the IS hierarchy of needs tell us about innovation?  The answer came quickly. The hierarchy of needs tells us that different types of innovation are needed to meet the different needs and in order to progress up the hierarchy you need to use the right innovations at the right time.  At a high level it looks something like this.


If your outstanding need isThe type of innovation you should focus on is
Systems reliabilityIT process innovation that will improve how you operate with a particular emphasis on problem management which will drive root cause analysis and continuous improvement. An example of this would be to use the ITIL Framework to guide how you do your work within IT.
Cost effectivenessIT innovation that is using new IT solutions to innovate within IT is your primary focus.  This may include such things as modernising legacy systems, virtualisation, migrating to the cloud and introducing open source to reduce costs.

These bottom two layers of the hierarchy of needs represent what I call IS’s private victory (the concept of the private victory comes from Stephen Covey’s 7 habits).  The outcome of the private victory is a demonstration that you can effectively manage technology and technology investments.   Often, one initiative will impact both layers of the private victory. For example if you improve you IT process management you are likely to achieve both an increase in reliability and a decrease in costs.

The top two layers of the hierarchy represent the public victory where you use technology to help and support all people in the business.


If your outstanding need isThe type of innovation you should focus on is
Business enablementIT enabled business process innovation to improve efficiency in the execution of your organisations business model and improving the organisations decision effectiveness by providing the right information to decision makers so they can make more effective decisions.
Business model innovationUsing technology and information to substantially change what products and services are delivered to customers (e.g. Rolls Royce are delivering engine hours rather than engines) or how they are delivered to customers (e.g. Amazon’s introduction of on-line shopping).

So, if you want to begin to drive innovation within your organisation then work out what need you need to satisfy and then pitch the right innovation at that problem to generated success and allow you to move on towards higher order needs, more influence and more value.



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