Innovation and transformation: Matching communication to culture

Inventor Steven Sasson, who developed the first digital camera, discusses culture and communication as barriers to innovation, with important lessons for CIOs.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor on

Innovation in the enterprise is difficult at best, and seemingly impossible most of the time.

In this excellent video, inventor Steven Sasson, who developed the first digital camera for Kodak, discusses culture and communication as requirements for innovation. Although he presents a brilliantly simple synopsis of the problem and solution, few people possess the inter-personal skills required to execute his advice successfully.

In creating his camera, Sasson had to choose the number of images to record on primary storage, which was digital cassette tape at that time. He decided to store thirty images, approximating the capacity of film cartridges, because people at Kodak felt comfortable with numbers connected to rolls of film.

Although Sasson could have stored "a hundred or a thousand" pictures on the tape, he did not want to alienate colleagues, recognizing that "nobody knew how to deal" with the concept of digital images.

Sasson elaborates in the video, explaining that successful innovation requires the ability to work within the limits of your organization's culture [edited for readability]:

"Understand the culture you are dealing with, first and foremost. Then, put out what the culture is used to, and release only the essential elements of your idea, so it doesn't get confused with things that might complicate the concept."

Click the video below to watch:


By definition, successful business transformation requires innovation and change. We all know that change is difficult; however, IT organizations often overlook the importance of engaging users in thoughtful and consistent dialog.

Unfortunately, many transformation initiatives attempt to impose change on unsuspecting, or uninterested, users. Of course, these efforts are doomed to fail.

Listen closely to the words of wisdom in this video; especially when Sasson discusses the intertwined connections between innovation, communications, and culture.

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