In a building full of the world’s most innovative companies, that invented a wide range of the technology that we all use day to day, we are the janitor. We happen to own the building too, but in our day to day role, it’s as simple as that. There’s nothing wrong or bad about being the janitor, on the contrary, it’s one of the most important roles, try developing anything with a clogged toilet. But as the example illustrates, it’s not a very prestigious role.
Yet, I’d like to offer a bit more insight into this and how we can reinvent our role. The first point is from my sons’ primary school.
Gabi is the housekeeper (the politically correct term for janitor), and it turns out that he does much more than just makes sure the water runs and the lights in all the classes work – he’s the go-to guy for all the kids that aren’t in class for some reason or another, usually because they just can’t take anymore sitting in front of a board. He’s the “teacher” that teaches everything else; he’s the guy that lets kids help do real things. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that because of his unique position and the fact that he really cares, he’s my sons’ favorite person in all the school’s staff.
The second point is that it’s easier to innovate in the dark than in the limelight. When you’re the CTO you’re expected to innovate, to create the new things, you have a roadmap of the upcoming releases and you have to deliver. This isn’t really innovation, it’s developing what’s expected. Make X work 5, 10, 50 percent better. When everyone is relying on you, failing is not an option – and that’s probably the best indicator of innovation – if you can’t fail, you also can’t innovate.
So if you’re the Janitor, as long as things keep ticking, you’re free to try whatever you like, especially if you also happen to be the landlord.
I think that those two points: we are in a place that really cares about people, not only in the context of their role in a company, but as people and the ability to try new things without fear is what has, and will keep this journey interesting. So if you have an idea, no matter how far-flung it may be, hoop into my office and let’s talk about it, I promise to share mine too.