People and Innovation

I find podcasts to be a great learning resource. In fact, I like them so much that I not only listen to a lot of them, I even produce one called Automation Minutes.

At any rate, one of my favorites is Technometria, from IT Conversations. In a recent episode, the guest was Scott Berkun, author of “Myths of Innovation” and “The Art of Project Management.” Berkun had 15 years of programming and project management experience at Microsoft before hitting the writing/consulting/speaking circuit.  

He noted that people skills trump anything else in management. For example, he cited a program development methodology known as “agile” development. The method it espouses can be assumed from its name. However, there exist managers who say they embrace agile development but continue to say, “Here’s a detailed list of what I want you to do and how I want you to do it.” This, of course, defeats the idea of agile, plus it destroys any gist of innovation or enthusiasm in the team. In this issue, we explore many tools for developing people in automation.  

Follow ups  

In last month’s editorial, followed up by a couple of posts on my FeedForward blog and a podcast, I speculated on who was actually shipping wireless sensor products in the process control market. The reason for the question was that even though various process control vendors, including Emerson Process Management, have been talking about wireless technology, you won’t find a list of wireless products on Emerson’s Web site. And further, if you want to know more, you have to establish an account.  

I finally received a response from Emerson Process Management citing a press release noting that it was shipping products in December 2006. It issued a second press release reiterating that it started shipping in December 2006 and that it is now sponsoring a contest for its customers. The customer who presents the best paper (judged by peers) for best application and best business
case wins cash and free admission to the 2008 Emerson Global Users Exchange. I’m hoping to get some wireless stories from the 2007 Exchange, too. I continue to think that 2008 will see critical mass begin to develop.  

In part of my June editorial, followed up by blog postings and podcasts, I took up the mantle for purchasers of machines from original equipment manufacturers, known as OEMs. These buyers are often placed in a tough position, operating and maintaining machines purchased from multiple, and sometimes hundreds of different OEMs. The only solution that we could come up with was that technology providers need to be the force that drives standardization for programming and interface.  

It wasn’t long before I heard from Rockwell Automation. In a conference call with several members of the OEM team, I was given a glimpse of the future and the team’s concern for the users’ plight. Later, I also heard from Bosch Rexroth, which is also working on the problem. These advances may not happen as quickly as large users would like, but I’m impressed that there’s a lot of effort expended by some technology providers. I reiterate my earlier comments that I feel the first-mover advantage for a supplier with a good solution would be formidable. Look for much more coverage in Automation World in 2008.  

Back to Berkun’s other book—“The Myths of Innovation.” For this book, he researched many famous innovations and inventions. Was it genius that made these people creative? Sorry to say, no. It was hard work. Do you realize what that means? We can all be innovators if we work hard—at the right things, of course. So cut the excuses about not being a genius. Get to work. 

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