Bypassing innovation roadblocks

Executive John Roese on how and when you should innovate.

By John Roese, global chief technology officer, Dell Technologies 

If learning and innovation go hand in hand, the last few years have been a doozy in more ways than one.

And still, knowing when—and how—to innovate isn’t always straightforward. A recent Forbes Research study identified key areas of debate among business leaders, the top three most common being technology investment (28%), where to focus digital transformation (27%) and pace of innovation (26%).

From Dell’s Innovation Index, 2023

At Dell, we intimately understand the nuance that goes into effective innovation. We’ve helped advance industries ranging from space exploration to manufacturing, and advanced technologies from predictive analytics to sustainable hardware and packaging design. We’ve done this through a constantly evolving economic climate, using a steady, pragmatic approach.

In my time overseeing some of these initiatives as CTO, I’ve learned that change is rarely an easy thing, and consensus can be hard to come by. But just as progress is inevitable, innovation gridlock is surmountable.

Roadblocks that hinder progress

Today’s business leaders understand that lingering in innovation limbo puts their organizations at risk of lagging behind the competition—which is arguably stiffer than ever before. Let’s address some of the roadblocks that can hinder innovation.

1) Lack of clear, measurable benefits and adequate allocation of resources.  The impact of the innovation must be measurable and relevant to your business. You also have to reorient precious corporate resources toward the future—both start with a top-down decision-making model and a top-down resource allocation model.

Innovating without being able to clearly communicate a new technology’s measurable benefits risks a lukewarm—or worse—reception from employees and customers alike. This is often a recipe for diminishing returns downthe line.

2) Institutional inertia. Innovation momentum can be challenging for even the most nimble of organizations—let alone huge, multinational enterprises.

Inevitably there is a conflict between dedicating energy to existing work or future work. It helps to define early and often what those swim lanes will be—what you’re willing to press pause on now to focus on what will contribute to your future, what core functions of business today you will support while fostering the ones that will become invaluable tomorrow.

3) Skilling. The truth is no organization will be able to hire enough people to build its digital capability. There aren’t enough people out there, and the nature of technology skills needed has also evolved.

According to management consulting firm Korn Ferry’s “Future of Work” findings, we’re currently staring down a talent deficit of some 85 million workers—expected to result in nearly $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenue—by 2030.

In the competition for talent, companies must favor employees with a zest for continuous professional growth and help them build the soft skills that are conducive to supporting a diversity of initiatives.

Paving the way for effective innovation

Want to move faster and get the most relevance out of innovation? A future-oriented approach with consensus across the c-suite is critical. Invest in employee learning and development through upskilling and reskilling programs, and use automation to your advantage to help your team focus on higher-value work. Luckily, modern software is helping make the latter easier—in many cases, you don’t need to be a technologist to build and innovate anymore—as some of today’s solutions are more or less turnkey.

The future of human-machine collaboration is on our doorstep, and it’s redefining how businesses scale.

We’re continuing to learn and innovate while supporting the people and partners who have helped us achieve industry-altering innovations for decades.

The future of innovation is bright, and it’s also, thankfully, very much within reach.

Want to read more stories like this? Check out Realize magazine.