We live in a day and age when the survival of enterprises depends in no small part on their ability to innovate. From afar, coming up with disrupting products, services and features may seem enough. True innovation, however, needs to start from within, so that it becomes easier to nurture along the way. The path towards it is not without obstacles. Because of that, it’s essential to identify them and anticipate solutions before issues turn into showstoppers.
Making Employees Feel Disposable
Treating employees as nothing more than resources will have a great toll on the trust they have in your initiative, project or organization. Making them feel as part of a team, on the other hand, can boost their trust tremendously.
Multinational companies often list anything but the people as their main assets. Airlines pride themselves with the airplanes they use, oil companies with the oil in the ground, and technology giants with the intellectual property and big data that they own and use.
Ultimately, innovation occurs through people. It’s them who are taking the risks in order to see innovative ideas turned into disrupting products. It’s also them who build the first prototypes of anything. Without their contribution, there really wouldn’t be any innovation to talk about.
Favoring the Triple Constraints of Project Management Over People and Trust
Ignoring the project’s Budget, Scope and Timeline altogether isn’t an option for Project Managers. That being said, assessing the team and its members regularly to make sure that everything is going in the right direction is oftentimes more important. That’s exactly why innovative companies should consider team morale a key performance indicator.
And then there’s the matter of trust. Innovation entails a lot of risk and mistakes. The way big companies handle these two aspects is essential to reciprocal trust. Rewarded risks and unpunished mistakes can easily pave the way for internal innovation. Of course, that’s the right attitude when employees learn from their mistakes and do all they can to right them. Easier said than done, right?
Mistakes and risks, while not completely avoidable, can be minimized by structuring the entire product development process using a logical framework. The SaaS Execution Map (pictured above) features sections for the scope, budget and time estimations of the project, but the true focus is elsewhere. It’s on the real team, a cohesive group of skilled people that communicate well and can tackle logically any risk that appears along the way.
Insufficient Communication between All Involved Parties
Surveys after surveys show communication (or rather the lack thereof) as being one of the top 3 issues in mostly anything. It’s the root of why marriages end, business partnerships fall apart, managers are unable to lead properly, employees choose to part ways with their employers, and also why customers may favor the competition.
When it comes to corporate innovation, communication should be treated as an asset, not as a liability. Therefore, it’s important to ensure open communication channels between all the members of a team, between the departments of a corporation, and between the organization and its stakeholders. Once more, trust comes into play, as clear and frequent communication can only help build it.
Success and productivity are only possible when team members have access to all the required information. Innovation CRM platforms such as CBInsights’s Collections can help provide big company employees all the information they need whenever they need it. However, tools like this one aren’t placeholders for a communication-centric culture.
Continuously Choosing Rigid Procedures over Skilled People and Teams
Structure, much like communication and the triple constraints, is an essential part of digital product development projects. Still, it shouldn’t be in the spotlight, or at least not more than your team.
Design Thinking and Lean Startup are excellent approaches, but they don’t mean much without a team that knows the context of the project. Sometimes, a glance at the team members can indicate the chances of success before even starting the project.
Believing Managers and Superstar Employees Can Make Any Team Great
The lesson isn’t that you should rely less on managers, but that there shouldn’t be any managers at all. At least that’s how it goes for functioning teams. Their drive should be a common purpose, an environment of trust, a commitment to a common set of working principles and high-levels of communication. Basically, all of the previously discussed aspects. Don’t expect someone with superstar status to compensate for a mediocre team or one that’s not familiar with the concept.
Having an Outdated Approach on Working with Stakeholders
Something that all innovative businesses should distance themselves of is the employees-contractors-vendors paradigm. Teams should replace all of these aspects. Neither is the legal framework essential. When a crisis unravels, skills and whether there’s a common objective matter more than the type of contract signed by the people around the table. Trust is only born when all parties involved in the project pull in the same direction.
Innovation as a Mix of Creativity and Execution
As CDBaby’s founder Derek Sivers explained in his book Anything You Want, great ideas aren’t worth much without proper execution. The latter means more than just bringing the idea to life, as it also entails matching product requirements with real market needs. Those needs will change as market trends evolve and technologies emerge.
Trust and people are the two things that drive today’s startups to achieve success in an extremely chaotic world. They are also the two major ingredients for unmatched creativity and exemplar execution.
If you’re considering an innovation initiative, take two minutes a day to think about these two concepts and their impact. Do the context, involved parties, incentives and plans create trust? How does the trust coefficient fluctuate? At the end of your daily meditation, you’ll understand why trust is the only constant you should care about.
How close to the top is trust in your list of priorities? Do you value it as much as you should?
PS: On February 1st, I gave a talk at the Strategy & Innovation World Forum in London, where I discussed about the challenges that companies can encounter when approaching corporate innovation. If you’d like to watch the full presentation, you can find it on Slideshare.