Kurt Dykema comments in Forbes:
Executives are naturally selective when investing in ideas. While this selectiveness is needed to be an effective leader, risk-taking remains a major hurdle to overcome when creating an innovative culture. A company’s ability -- or inability -- to implement an idea is another hurdle. Two main concerns are the difficulty keeping up with the speed of technological changes, and the inability to allocate enough talent to accelerate innovation.
Innovation is a necessity, but the reality is that many organizations struggle to keep up, leaving business leaders scratching their heads as to where they went wrong. While we may recognize the need for innovation, what are we actually doing to get there?
Whether innovation comes from one breakthrough idea or stems from a series of small changes, one thing is certain: to truly become an innovative organization, C-level leaders need to be involved. And technology leaders have a special role, as they are best positioned to understand both the needs and the barriers, and can advocate for the resources needed to be successful.
My company recently conducted a study that asked 200 senior executives what they believed were the strongest hurdles to innovation. Three of the top five barriers cited were the ability to implement an idea, the culture of risk-taking, and a lack of industry expertise. Those surveyed also cited difficulty keeping up with the speed of technology changes and the inability to allocate enough talent to accelerate innovation. So while 93% of business leaders recognized the need for innovation, only half had dedicated processes in place.
To organize your business model to effectively drive progress, here are three ways I've found that technology leaders can effectively promote a culture of innovation within their whole organization.
Promote A Culture Of Risk-Taking
Executives are naturally selective when investing in ideas. While this selectiveness is needed to be an effective leader, risk-taking remains a major hurdle to overcome when creating an innovative culture. Encourage your team to try new ideas and allow them to fail. Foster a learning-friendly environment for your team to make mistakes and grow. By taking risks, you will open your team up to a more creative and innovative environment.
For example, a few years ago my team worked with a client to design and launch an industrial wireless lighting control system to warehousing and manufacturing spaces. We noticed that the technology also had potential value for lighting control in outdoor parking garages. So we approached this client, licensed the technology, and started an entirely new company to commercialize the system. Our team experienced firsthand the risks and rewards of building a business around a technology that we developed -- and took the risk to take to market.
Make It Possible To Implement New Ideas
A company’s ability -- or inability -- to implement an idea is another hurdle. As a technology leader, you offer insights to the rest of the C-suite on technical feasibility, but there must also be a case for its market desirability and the business viability. When done right, strengthening your brand will separate your company from the competition.
Several years ago, we worked on an athletic telemetry system for swimmers. The purpose was to improve the coaching process by giving the coach better data and enabling them to speak to the athletes while they were swimming. One of the founders of the company was a swim coach, so he had a strong opinion on what features would be valuable to the market. However, some of these features were driving technical complexity and risk. But by applying human-centered design, we were able to gather insights from dozens of swim coaches and get a better picture of what the market really wanted. The end result was a more desirable product and less technical risk, and as a result the customer’s business became more viable.
Be an advocate for technology within the C-suite, and for business strategy to your technical team. When these are in balance, your team will succeed.
Equip Yourself With The Right Team
Two main concerns I've heard regarding innovation are the difficulty keeping up with the speed of technological changes, and the inability to allocate enough talent to accelerate innovation.
When recruiting the skills you need, attract the right talent by making your company’s focus on innovation transparent, and vet potential team members on their ability to be creative and try new things. Make sure you are in the right mindset for future-proofing perspectives by recognizing the need to be flexible. Once you have the right technical team in place, train them to be deeply immersed in new and emerging trends. This is your best defense against technology’s rapid speed of change.
While rebuilding internally, don’t hesitate to call on outside resources. While having a strong internal team is crucial, take advantage of your outside resources -- such as vendors, partners, or people in your personal network -- when looking for a fresh perspective to shake up your organization’s innovation strategy.
Overall, your role as a technology leader puts you in an influential position to promote innovation within your organization. Be involved and invested in promoting a culture of innovation and making strategic decisions and investments that move your organization forward.