24 June 2009

Innovation, from Within

Historical objectivity is always difficult. I never give full credence to, for example, the American Film Institute’s lists of movie superlatives because they always seem skewed toward recent films. That’s not surprising. Can anyone born after 1940 really appreciate the impact of Charlie Chaplin’s silent films?

Fully recognizing my historical subjectivity, I nonetheless suggest that Records & Information Management is evolving rapidly. Is there any need to rate the change as the fastest ever? Is there any need to compare the relative profundity of Rembrandt and Warhol?

The previous post here discussed changes to RIM imposed by external forces: technology, law, and economics. Now let’s consider how RIM changes within an organization can address those forces. The key is neither a technology nor a tool. It is not a strategy or tactic. It is not an instruction or directive. It is a culture of innovation.

No one knows the next force that will require significant changes. No hardware, software, training class, or taxonomy will necessarily prepare a RIM program for its next great challenge. But a culture where innovation is encouraged, valued, rewarded, and applied is most likely to stay afloat in a sea of change.

Tom Koulopoulos, in his 2009 book The Innovation Zone: How Great Companies Re-Innovate for Amazing Success defines innovation as, “…a process of change with measurable value.”

For a RIM program, this suggests that the procedure for change must be built into the program’s governance. Innovation needs to be encouraged, and its consideration, evaluation, adaptation and application should be part of the RIM process.

I have previously written that every worker participates in records management through defined roles. (“Everyone is a records manager.”) Today I suggest that the invitation, no, the expectation that workers innovate be written into every job description. The assumption that most workers are the experts in how to improve their own jobs is part of a culture of innovation.

Generating innovation is only a start, however. Similar to Koulopoulos’ writing, the innovation process must add
1. Evaluation of innovative ideas
2. Storage for ideas that are ahead of their time
3. Sponsorship of the ideas with current value
4. Application of the new ideas to current issues
5. Measurement of the innovations

This last is key because innovation that can’t be measured is useless. Measurement (part of Controls) has always been a cornerstone or RIM, and innovation is no exception. Change is not a synonym for improvement. Only measurements prove improvement.

When a RIM program inculcates a culture of innovation, the program creatively responds (or even anticipates) changes in technology, law, and business requirements. It enjoys continual process improvement that spills into other areas. RIM contributes to profitability instead of being a drain on it. RIM principals become resources for the entire organization.

The “how to” of innovation is well documented and publicly available. My hope is to alert RIM leaders to the current critical need. For practitioners, it is difficult to step back from day-to-day challenges to consider building innovation into the program governance. Doing so, however, can be the difference between a program that is, on the one hand, reactive and dependent on corporate largesse and, on the other hand, creative and intrinsically valuable. The latter is better.

I value your thoughts about this. Please drop a comment below.

-- Gordy Hoke


  1. It is great to know about the RIM (Records Information Management ). I have very little knowledge about it but I am able to get something more about it. It was quite informative as well as interesting article for me. Thanks Man !