The first topic we'll cover in our Deep Tech Blend series is all about innovation. If you are a CEO, COO, CIO or CTO of any technology-enabled organization, or influence the decisions made by those titles, this will resonate with you.
Speed is critical in the digital economy and business disrupters are ever present. Your customers expect innovation in both products and services. Your technology organization can and should take charge of driving innovation to increase business value.
Innovation is often associated with major ground-breaking discoveries and changes. While these are great for any organization, no company should hang its hopes on the next BIG thing. Most innovation is a result of small improvements that have a major impact customers. This requires innovation in daily activities. Innovation needs to flow at every level, from executive sponsorship to employee involvement to product, processes, and technology.
Following are a few principles and characteristics that can help your IT team lead innovation within your organization:
- Explore emerging trends: CIOs and their teams need to be at the forefront of understanding new technologies and developments and figuring out how these relate to the business. Is it time to buy technology rather than building it, so we spend resources on value generating features? Is a disruption coming, and if so what will it do to us? Is there a better way of doing what we have been doing? Continuously exploring trends can help you answer these types of questions.
- Innovation never ends: Innovation needs to happen all the time. It is not a project or a hobby. It has to be a mindset for everyone. CIO/CTOs, with the support from peers, need to drive the innovation approach and agenda.
- Manage vision: Create and evangelize the vision of innovative trends while challenging status quo. This will get the conversation started at the appropriate levels and expose weaknesses and gaps in your organization’s business strategy and tactics and facilitate actionable plans around innovation. Understand your customer and where overlaps exist between “our offering” and “customer needs” or “our offering” and “potential market needs.”
- Fail fast: It’s okay to fail, but learn quickly and move on. If your organization is scared of failure, it will not try new ideas, methods etc. And without this, innovation will not happen. There are methods your organization can use to limit failures and keep them from being all consuming. Build small pieces, do demonstrations, and take them to the market to get feedback.
- Do simple better: (Phrase courtesy of Chicago Cubs’ Manager Joe Maddon) Focus, simplicity, and agility are the key characteristics of successful innovators. It’s time to change culture and processes if they hinder any of these. Pick a small subset of actions and build focus and excitement around these. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do everything in the hope that something will succeed.
- Celebrate small wins: No win is ever too small to celebrate. When you celebrate, make sure you include the entire organization. Internal excitement is infectious.
Reduced technical barriers to entry have led to tremendous disruptive pressure, both from competitors and from customers. Your technology organization can drive innovative differentiation that keeps your organization ahead in the game. The key, is adopting the characteristics of successful innovators.