Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Compliance and Innovation

What are we doing wrong today that we do not even know? In other words, unions formed around 100 years ago to protest the conditions that were killing workers left and right. This is a progressive thing, no one was worried about AIDS fifty years ago. No one worried about atomic bombs until 70 years ago. To this day the idea of biological warfare is still more or less an unconcerning mystery.

At work we have a 30-60 minute long safety meeting every month and a two hour long compliance meeting every year, yet never an innovation meeting. The focus of large meetings (all employees or all salaried employees or all verification and validation employees) is very singular: stay safe. Rules and an organizational structure are put in place so that no time is lost in the production of the equipment we make. An important goal of course.

Perhaps more could be done? It is very easy to be isolated in the work that I do. I interact with the same people every day. I work with the people that do exactly what I do, the people that try to physically test the projects I virtually test, and the people that design the stuff we test. I'm not sure that is enough.
Compliance, Innovation and Risk
I created this little graphic to illustrate kind of how I'm feeling about the conflict of Compliance and Innovation along with the actual risk. I focused mainly on physical risks, like death. The size of the circles somewhat represents my perception of how people live their lives, most in compliance, some innovative, and a handful with significant risk. I suppose it all depends on what risks you are considering, I am sure that Toyota and Microsoft would say that they take significant risks, but I don'y really see the a Prius or a Surface as bodily risks, financial maybe, but I hope that life is not defined by money. What would an example of a game changer be? The Wright brothers 1903 Flyer, the Manhattan Project, the Internet, I suppose the iPhone, although that risk is pretty much just financial as well.

After I mocked this up I didn't really feel great about it. The problem is defining the risk. We are trained to anticipate risk and mitigate against it. The problem is that so many of the risks that we worry about (money, being liked, criminals, loneliness, police, etc) really are not worth worrying about because the result cannot be influenced by our worrying about it. In other words, I'm not going to make more money by checking my bank account. So I think a three dimensional scale would do better to incorporate the different levels of risk, compliance and innovation. Plus, these things are really multifaceted in addition to being multileveled so some sort of 20 point extruded star shape would probably be the result. For example, there is legal compliance, ethical compliance, social compliance and all different levels of those. On one level I did my socially acceptable college stint but on another I have longer hair and vacation in Pakistan. That's not really in the same league as driving the speed limit and using my turn signals. It's a starting point anyway.

One last comment on innovation, I think kids are really innovative. They come up with ridiculous ideas! Brainstorming doesn't work with older people because they just shoot each other's ideas down and many of them don't share their ideas for fear of getting shot down. Kids don't yet have those reservations.

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