Cultivating technological innovation in enterprise organisations can be a challenging task, as CEOs, members of the executive board, and managers, are constantly striving for innovative ideas. However, are we truly providing our teams with the necessary tools to achieve success?
Large organisations often become hamstrung by the need to maintain existing software and legacy products. This can lead to lower levels of innovative development, poor ongoing technical solutions, and ultimately business stagnation.
Being the CEO of a 100% in-house Australian Software Agency, I’ve been exposed to hundreds of different businesses and I spend the majority of my week discussing and adapting innovative ideas.
I’ve spent some time reflecting on my experience and analysed the leading examples of company innovation. Here are 5 ways you can boost and promote innovation in your enterprise.
Unfortunately, it’s no silver bullet but the companies that have the greatest innovative success start with culture. Innovation isn’t an idea, it’s a way of working and a way of thinking. By setting an innovative culture you're empowering your team to take time out of their day and explore avenues of growth. An innovative culture breaks down the barriers of hierarchy ****and opens the door for all employees to be part of the ‘innovation team’. As part of this culture, it’s important to not only align the company vision and values with innovation but also the day-to-day output expectations. For example, if you’re expecting 50 hours of client-facing work from employees each week and trying to promote an innovative team culture; it probably doesn’t align. A great example of this is the car manufacturer, Tesla. It’s reported that management demand extremely high output from their employees however, they focus on relentless innovation. Employees aren’t micromanaged or judged on their week-by-week output. In fact, a lot of autonomy is placed on individuals to ‘do their job’ and results are based on overall outcomes. The culture itself is less focussed on what an individual is doing with more emphasis placed on company-wide results and innovation. It’s fair to say the results speak volumes.
If a cultural change is too far down the line, there are other options when it comes to innovation. A concept that is readily overlooked can be the use of incentives. Incentives are often attached to company profit, performance and financial outcomes but are highly underused in the innovation space. And hey, it’s easier to associate them with tangible outcomes such as billable hours or business development.
As the owner of a business, it’s easy to get stuck or trapped on a specific issue. In fact, this is usually the leading contributor to a lack of innovation (founders acting as bottlenecks). But a concept that can unlock untapped potential could sit inside incentives… at the end of the day, who doesn’t love a prize!
By announcing your challenges to the whole company and outlining exciting incentives, not only do you increase your pool of innovators but you introduce the concept in peer-to-peer competition. Humans are competitors and incentives are a fantastic way of tapping into those competitive instincts.
It’s important to note that company-wide challenges invite a wealth of responses and possible solutions. Stats tell us that the major of these won’t solve the core problem you are trying to solve. However, when you invite feedback and innovation, it’s important that people feel heard. The first idea may not be the one that unlocks your challenges but the 50th idea may be the one that increases your company’s revenue!
A hackathon is a term coined by the tech industry. It’s a set period of time where teams or individuals are tasked with innovating or solving a specific problem. Think of it as ‘forced innovation’. We find that one of the key reasons why businesses aren’t able to innovate is due to a lack of innovative opportunities. If you’re constantly working on client products, fixing bugs or ‘doing your job’ the actual time you have to innovate is very limited. And this is the exact reason that the tech industry introduced Hackathons.
Hackathons usually consist of a specific goal/challenge and a specific timeframe. For example, you may challenge your team to find a solution to a burning business problem within 48 hours. At the end of the 48 hour period, everyone at the event is required to present something. Similar to my point above, a hackathon doesn’t usually lead to the perfect solution but it often opens the door to an idea or concept. The key benefit and potential roadblock to running a successful hackathon is to set a dedicated period of time with no distractions. For many companies, this simply isn’t financially feasible…It’s pretty hard to stop all client production for 48 hours. However, if you have the flexibility within your organisation to do this, the results are usually very very impressive and eye-opening.
Additionally to this, Hackathons are a great opportunity to boost team bonding and teamwork. Often Hackathons require staff members to join small teams to execute the tasks. Acting as a perfect opportunity to strengthen culture.
When was the last time you said ‘yes’ to one of your employee's ideas? If you're a team lead, manager, executive or business owner, it’s easy to act as an innovation bottleneck. Do you need to give the green light before important decisions are made? Are you required to sign off on every activity within your team? Well if that’s the case, maybe it’s time to let go of the reigns and say ‘yes’ to other members of your company.
Studies show that trust and a sense of purpose are one of the leading reasons behind employee longevity. Your ability to boost your employee's purpose and trust within the company could heavily correlate with their willingness to innovate on your issue. This introduces the power of ‘Yes’. Empowering employees to make decisions and take ownership of decisions is extremely rewarding. As mentioned throughout this article, innovation rarely comes from the first idea, it’s often a build-up of multiple ideas and iterations. However, this all starts with the first yes. Constantly encouraging and empowering employees to think outside the box, make decisions and take risks provides the positive reinforcement required to boost innovation.
And of course, all of this comes with the consideration that clear guidelines, expectations and performance reviews should be in place.
We understand that building an innovative culture is a long-term strategy and it might not always be feasible. It’s for this reason, that our final point is all about instant results.
Companies and employees carry baggage, and because of this, it’s hard for the people closest to a challenge to provide the best innovative solutions.
For example, if you ask your employees to redesign a marketing flyer, they're most likely going to refer to your existing flyer as the base while referring back to all the comments the CEO, CFO, Marketing Manager, Receptionist and Clients have previously made… all of which immensely impact the ability for your employee to truly innovate.
By introducing and third party to assist in this situation, you cut through the noise, politics and baggage. Unlocking your company’s ability to emphasise and focus on innovative solutions.
As a 100% in-house development team, we see this all the time. Our clients come to us with a challenge they’ve been working on for months and years. Hamstrung by historical experiences, company baggage and client feedback.
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