5 Ways to Keep Innovation Alive In a Recession

Bonvanie says that at Serena, the company tries to avoid upfront costs.

“If you do that you can actually improve innovation,” he says. “If so much of your costs are related to infrastructure, very little money remains for innovation.”

Serena reports that 55 percent of CIO respondents in the company’s survey thought reducing upfront costs would help to lessen the financial risks of trying new applications.
At the same time, CIOs reported that budget cuts were the biggest hindrance to new projects.

4. Use the social and the virtual

IBM’s Newbold suggests that as companies reduce travel expenses, meetings on new projects can still take place in a new dimension: the virtual world. “We have seen new interest in making virtual worlds more suitable for team meetings as more businesses seek to reduce travel expenses and the related environmental impact,” he explains. According to Newbold, virtual worlds can provide high-fidelity sound, avatars, and collaborative spaces that engage new ideas. “It has also inspired lots of new solutions,” he says.

In addition to the virtual world, social networking sites foster collaboration and innovation, Newbold says. In its CIO Report, Serena advised that CIOs frequent tech news sites such as Slashdot, community sites such as Experts Exchange, and networking sites such as LinkedIn to foster new ideas.

“I always encourage my colleagues to collaborate, especially with remote team members and especially when there is uncertainty,” Newbold says. “The best way to demonstrate your value and to ensure you are building positive value is to be a leading collaborator; its a skill and a temperament that always brings rewards.”

Bonvanie agrees: “A smart CIO will allow the innovation,” he says. In Serena’s study of 100 IT leaders, 69 percent believed social networking will be a useful business tool within two years. Despite security concerns raised by CIOs in the survey, Bonvanie advocates communicating new ideas via blogs and wikis.

5. Go green

According to IBM’s Newbold, focusing on environment-friendly projects can help keep innovation at the forefront of your company’s business plan. IBM is focused on energy-efficient
data centers
and smart-control systems to reduce consumption,” he says.

“When leveraged appropriately, ‘green’ strategy, innovations, solutions and services can constitute a competitive edge for enterprise and for industries — making it possible
to take care of business while taking care of the planet,” IBM states in a December 2008 white paper.

Focus on new business models that reward low environmental impact, Newbold advises. “We are also engaged in social computing as a way to get employees thinking and innovating about green solutions and being more mindful about their own impact,” he adds.