5 Rules to Make Innovation Happen

Despite the outstanding achievements in information technology in the last decades, businesses of different branches are still seeking opportunities to optimize their digitalization strategy to introduce more convenience for their customers and, therefore, stay competitive. Creating the best possible user experience and working towards sustainable use of resources at the same time is only possible with innovative approaches.

Making innovation happen is not easy, since creating an innovative environment consists of a number of different aspects and requires synergies between company culture, management style, and concrete technical solutions. However, there are five simple rules that can make you kick-started.

1 Remove the Innovation Killers
The origins of innovations are extraordinary, sometimes even crazy ideas, which will be then developed further to make the impossible possible. Creating a safe place for employees to speak their minds and question the status quo is the first crucial step to make your business innovative. I just recently read about an Austrian company called F/List on Xing. At this company, employees seem to have the psychological safety to share their ideas without trying to adjust them to the current mainstream ideas.

Having such a mindset and company culture made F/List an important player on the premium aircraft and yacht interior market. As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

2 Prove your stamina
Innovation is more like a process than a one-time event. 1% idea and 99% execution. Or as the original quote of Thomas Edison says “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. Forcing your employees to have one brilliant idea on Tuesday at 10:25 a.m. and one on Wednesday at 1:18 p.m. will certainly not work. So after removing the innovation killers it is also essential to encourage people to follow their ideas and to think about new ways in a continuous matter. At viesure, employees have the possibility to add so-called innovation stories to the sprints, design and execute small experiments in the cloud, and so on. In addition to that, we usually have a bi-weekly team challenge, which aims for encouraging employees to integrate innovation into their daily work.

3 Allow failing
A vast majority of us are hindered to a certain extent or even blocked by the fear of failure. Even if our employer shows a big interest in creating a high level of psychological safety at work, we might face inner obstacles that we have to overcome. This is the reason why a culture of failure is absolutely essential. Allowing failures does not mean to completely get rid of quality assurance and to have no test automation at all, of course.

It is more about allowing experimenting and creating proof of concepts, even if the idea sounds crazy. In addition to that, establishing a feedback culture where mistakes contribute to organizational and personal learning is crucial.

4 Be empathetic and embrace diversity
So, it looks great so far. Your innovative company had a happy, optimistic start, you are financed for the next 1-1.5 years, your company is a safe place to speak your mind and you can prove your stamina. Plus you can create some proof of concepts and you are allowed to fail. “Stay hungry, stay foolish” as Steve Jobs would have said and reach for the stars. Then stakeholders and investors start to increase pressure and ask you to do less interesting things in a shorter time. Before you get angry and disappointed, let me quickly introduce our fourth rule: be empathetic and embrace diversity.

To successfully apply this rule, we have to carefully watch and analyze, why we have these situations that have the potential to fuel disappointment. By stripping off the complex sociological and business contexts, you will end up drilling down on quite simple things like the definition of innovation. Nevertheless, you will get many different definitions, if you ask different people from different departments or different branches. On the one hand, the challenge of agreeing on a simple definition and common understanding might be difficult and even annoying. On the other hand, this diversity is critical for progressing in an exciting innovative endeavor.

Being empathetic might seem to be a naive approach. Still, in many cases, the mentioned diversity in human thinking and communication is why people have the feeling of working towards entirely different goals.

5 Enable the (technical) enablers
As a company grows creating a technical debt or debt in terms of unfinished business is almost inevitable and in the worst case, you feel like you carry a heavy bag, and your hands are tied. In my career as a software engineer, I have seen such situations a couple of times. Even if you have an open-minded manager, he or she will tell you that your crazy, innovative idea is nice. Still, you know, there is Migration Project A and Digital Transformation Project X (which turns out to be Migration Project B) that need to be tackled first.

To avoid all this and significantly reduce the amount of (technical) debt, you have to enable people I like to call enablers. Similar to the term Enablers of the Scaled Agile Framework (SaFE), human enablers are working silently on providing future business functionality by cleaning things up, by deleting a lot of unused code and unused services, by optimizing your infrastructure and the flow of information. As mentioned, these people usually do not care so much about self-marketing, merely keeping the bag light and the hands untied. Enable and support them. They will keep you flexible and innovative.

Conclusion

To maintain your company’s competitiveness or transform your company into a competitive business, innovations are essential. Although innovations are usually a result of a longer process, there are five simple rules presented in the present writing you can safely start with. We at viesure are highly committed to following these rules and we are looking forward to creating tomorrow.

Further reading

https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it

https://www.lead-innovation.com/english-blog/innovation-culture-of-failure

https://hbr.org/2010/04/youve-made-a-mistake-now-what

https://hbr.org/2020/06/good-feedback-is-a-two-way-conversation

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesinsights/2020/01/15/diversity-confirmed-to-boost-innovation-and-financial-results/

https://hbr.org/2020/05/diversity-and-inclusion-efforts-that-really-work

https://alediaferia.com/2018/02/14/technical-debt-kills-your-company/

https://www.xing.com/news/insiders/articles/treibt-sich-dieser-innovationskiller-auch-bei-dir-rum-3347148 (German)

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