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Let’s talk about innovation.

Let’s Talk About Innovation To innovate, from the Latin “Novus”, means to introduce innovations. It can be of two types:

  1. Introduction of novelties not previously present and having a character of originality.
  2. Imitation of novelties not present in one’s market/sector.

In the first case, it is properly called invention; in the second case, it is called adoption or diffusion (depending on the role exercised in one’s market). The life cycle of a product, but also an idea or concept, is characterized by its adoption in successive time bands by users progressively less “innovative”, depending on their risk propensity, intelligence, plastic adaptability to new ideas:

  • inception: adopted by radical innovators, called early adopters.
  • chasm between early adopters and mainstream: the “doldrums” and lack of sales where new ideas and products usually flounder or struggle after the first signs of possible success (due to early adopters).
  • mainstream: adopted by the general public of late adopters: users not fond of risk, who essentially follow fashions and repeat what they see others do. If it is a product or service, it becomes a “cash cow” and generates large amounts of money. Those who introduced it to the market risk becoming complacent and ignoring emerging threats from more innovative competitors. Truly innovative companies tend to make their own products obsolete before others do, replacing them on their own.
  • obsolescence: the proposed model is eventually adopted by laggards, users who actively resist innovation and only buy something after everyone else has, typically embracing a model when it is practically already obsolete and more valid alternatives are beginning to become mainstream, or remain loyal to their initial choice, made years and years before. They have even less risk propensity than the mainstream public. Today, a laggard is, for example, someone in a company still using obsolete versions of Explorer, demanding compatibility, or someone thinking of using Bootstrap for a website they want to make innovative and dedicated to the general public because that’s what everyone does, so it can’t go wrong. If one were to maliciously interpret phrases like “innovation is not invention,” it could be seen as a clumsy attempt by a late adopter to pass themselves off as an innovator at all costs.

Other examples in every day (computing) life: Choosing Java within a newly developed IT system and justifying it based on “human resources are cheap,” “you can’t go wrong,” or similar… People who call themselves “innovators” but whose main technical innovation consists of moving from Java Swing (around 2010) to Java EE in 2017. I have met people who boast of having been “the first Java programmer in Italy” and who today, in “innovative startups where they are technical directors,” propose Java and PHP.
Java seems to have become the new COBOL. It’s also true that if all you know as a tool is a hammer, it’s hard not to see the rest of the world as nails.

I was recently asked why I used Golang to write back-end architectures. The funny thing is that the person who asked me answered their question “out of passion,” not even considering that this strange, extravagant choice might have worked well or brought home some significant economic result (like having achieved a particular result with really scarce economic means, quickly, and with good performance).

In this context, it’s interesting to note the existence of models and matrices to evaluate a developer’s competence that are simply unknown, dead letters in Italy, like this one:

The problem is that in our country, there is often doubt that we deal with computer science as a civilized and industrialized country. Too often, those selecting only seek confirmation of their prejudices and worldviews, which are often just simple myths or projections and search for self-affirmation. And decisions are often made by hearsay, without any critical reflection, no experiment. And yet computer science was born as a scientific discipline, a branch of applied mathematics.

Examples of myths:

The younger ones are innovators: False, being an innovator is a personal attribute, and radical innovators and early adopters are very few people. It’s unlikely that an innovator isn’t also an early adopter in other fields; if they often take “conservative” positions, it will be difficult not to make conservative choices even in projects. And the case where, with a circular reasoning approach, one tries to kill two birds with one stone: being innovative (in words) without wanting to take risks. For, a mid-level manager of a not particularly innovative company starts up a startup, in which they essentially continue doing precisely the previous job in an “innovative company” where he keeps on doing exactly what he did at his first employer, essentially with the same tools, computer-based and conceptual.

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