Recognizing Some Cost of Innovation

Following higher education folks on social media who are definitely thinking about how to change the system in its current form makes me envious/frustrated sometimes that I don’t have the foresight they do.  Sometimes I feel like maybe as part of the status quo, I am contributing to the old way of thinking that prohibits innovative thinking. Maybe I am part of the problem.

But then again, sometimes, it frustrates me to see my colleagues and my institution have to shoulder the burdens of meeting unfunded mandates, having to say not to new projects we know can benefit our students and our staff, maintaining legacy systems that were built so many decades ago and at the same time trying to keep the lights on. It frustrates me to see my colleagues have to shoulder work enough for more than 2 or 3 people. These are the same colleagues who will never get the praise they deserve because they work behind the scenes, making sure our servers and network stays up, that they are secure. These are the same colleagues who will gladly work beyond 5 pm to finish their codes for the next release or to fix some bugs in applications they must try to understand because it was written by someone else before them.

In the last decade or so since I joined my organization, I would like to think I’ve contributed to new solutions to improve how we do business through the applications I’ve created. I may even dare say they were innovative ideas. Innovative in that these applications were new to our organization or they redefined the way we do business. But for every new ideas introduced, what I have come to realize is that there’s a cost to maintaining these ideas. For every application I created, someone other than me had to take on the responsibility of maintaining/enhancing them.

As much as I get excited about the possibility of implementing new ideas or new technologies in our organization, even as they are for the benefit our customers, the reality is that for my ideas to be realized and to be sustainable, I need the help of my colleagues. Unfortunately, these are the same colleagues who are too busy having to maintain some of those bright ideas I had years ago.

2 thoughts on “Recognizing Some Cost of Innovation

  1. Kevin R. Guidry

    I still have nightmares that my undergraduate alma mater is going to hire me back to support the software I developed for my department as an undergraduate! It was useful enough at the time but I don’t think anyone – especially me! – gave any thought to the long- or even medium-term maintenance costs

    Now I know better. But sometimes I wish I didn’t because I’ve sometimes felt like I spend too much time saying “no” to new ideas because I fear the maintenance costs and unintended repercussions. There has to be a sweet spot between encouraging innovation and demanding responsibility, right? I’d like to find that sweet spot but it has been elusive so far…


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