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Most organizations have plenty of forward-thinking people who want to innovate. Getting initiatives off the ground, however, is a different story. Oftentimes, it requires taking a leap into the unknown, and there is a good chance you will only achieve the desired result after several attempts.

Moreover, you will be held accountable if things don’t go right the first time. Sticking with your old ways or implementing internal alternatives can feel safer. Nevertheless, it is a shame if you don’t innovate, because you won’t improve.

Choosing a different route can lead to many new insights. True, it requires more time and effort. But once you succeed, there are ample benefits to reap. In this blog, we will list the three main reasons why an organization should embrace innovation. Hopefully, it will set you off in the right direction and help you unlock your company’s potential!

1. Future- and millennial-minded

Today’s young talents are the employees of the future. Therefore, it is not only important to attract them; you should also offer them a work environment that allows for growth and development.

Especially well-educated millennials want to contribute their bit and like to be heard. When they present their ideas, you should not make them feel as if they run into a stone wall. Allow them to help you change and improve, and they will.

 2. Continuous improvement

‘How can we do things in a different and better way?’ It is a question you should be asking all the time. Only then, you will be able to organize your processes in the most efficient and effective possible manner. Co-creation can be very fruitful in this context: by involving your customers or suppliers in your innovation process, you can work on securing your organizational future while strengthening your relationships.

Incidentally, don’t forget to make participants in an experimental project sign a document which states that you may not yet meet all requirements during this stage. At the same time, tell them you firmly believe that your efforts will be advantageous in the near future.

 3. Team and company culture with adaptive power

The world is innovating at a rapid speed, and management can’t afford to lag behind. For example, when flex working found its way to offices all around the globe, many organizations quickly redesigned their interiors to welcome the concept.

No more office booths or assigned desks: even CEOs should sit randomly at any desk available at the moment. It sounded great, but in many cases, management had claimed its ‘own’ corner within a month. The result: work processes were not adapted to new ways of working, and nothing improved.

In our other innovation blogs, we will discuss how you can recognize and eliminate such innovation killers!

In our last blogs about innovation, we discussed the importance of embracing innovation and explained how to recognize and eliminate innovation killers. Now, it is time to look at the requirements for innovative ideas and the way you can realize them.

Every process of innovation follows a pattern of trying, failing, learning and trying again. So before you can innovate, you actually have to realize the ideas you have been thinking about for awhile. What does it take to get a good initiative out of one’s head and into reality?

 1. The speed of trust

Innovation is about letting go of the obsolete – and, therefore, about loosening control. It is about trying out new things, that can lift up and boost your organization – or make everything a little less great. You never know what’s going to happen.

Many organizations struggle to make those courageous decisions, as this increases the risk that things could go wrong. It is, however, important to trust your experts if you want to get something innovative off the ground.

For example, before the 2007 launch of the very first iPhone, Apple employees were granted trust and a certain amount of freedom to develop a device that was completely different from any cell phone ever released.

No one knew what was going to happen, but they went for it anyway and it turned out really well for the company. Your innovation process asks for the same courage – and trust.

2. Failed attempts? No problem!

Innovation comes from the Latin word ‘innovationem’. Until the 16th century, being a ‘novator’ wasn’t a good thing. They were treated very carefully and were not to be trusted, as a ‘novator’ was a heretic or a disbeliever.

That’s right, innovation comes from people who didn’t feel comfortable with the established religion and came up with their own ideas. If you want to be innovative, come up with your own ideas, even if not everyone’s immediately on board. Because although it turned out well for Apple, sometimes it takes a long time before innovative processes bring any benefit to your organization.

It is crucial to realize from the beginning, that innovation processes hardly ever go right the first time. While trying out new things, you discover what works and what doesn’t and this way you learn by trial and error. Apple did, Triggre did, and so will every other organization.

At the same time, it is important to take damage control into account so you (and your employees) are well prepared. For example, explain to your test group what you are trying to accomplish and have them sign a document stating that you are at an experimental stage. Also, pick the right process to experiment with – not all processes are suitable!

3. Leading with a compass (not with a clock)

When you are planning an innovative move, it all starts with the ‘why’. Ask yourself why your organization is making changes and create a goal before you start. After awhile, you can check the progress your organization has made, by asking if you are getting closer to the ‘why’.

‘Are we heading into the right direction?’ is the key question in innovation processes, and it should be one of the few you are (re)answering along the way. If the progress gets you closer to fixing the reason why you are innovating, your organization is on the right track.

When implementing innovative initiatives, it is essential to lead with a compass, rather than a clock. After all, you don’t know how long a process will take. You take steps forward and you take steps back, and the project plan will most likely never be on schedule.

Still, every move will get you closer to innovating and being better than before. You can only determine at regular intervals whether you are still on track towards your final goal: innovation!

In our other blog about innovation, we discussed why it is important for organizations to embrace innovation. Today, we would like to help you tackle a related issue: innovation killers.

Many organizations have employees who want to innovate, but who cannot seem to get their initiatives off the ground. The majority tends to cling onto the ‘safe’ status quo, which makes it risky to pursue innovative ideas. After all, if it goes wrong – and it often does the first two or three attempts – you will be held accountable in an innovation-unfriendly environment.

This is a shame, because sticking to old habits inevitably means that you won’t improve. Below, we will list three common innovation killers. If you can recognize and address them, it is easier to eliminate reluctance and take your first steps towards innovation!

1. Being swayed by the issues of the day

Most companies are always busy organizing sales, delivery, and transportation. Oftentimes, innovative initiatives have to make room for such urgent matters. However, if you think about it, organizations with this mentality are fighting a losing battle.

After all, they can’t improve their efficiency. It is only sensible to take a moment to consider why your processes are organized the way they are. Only then, you can spot the gaps and make improvements.

 2. Compliance-related concerns

There is an ever-increasing amount of laws and regulations that you need to comply with. Consequently, many decision makers leave the green-lighting of new initiatives to their IT compliance experts.

However, experience shows that the answer completely depends on the individual handling a proposal: many people reject initiatives because they are afraid to make a compliance-related mistake.

Due to the associated fear of things going awry, compliance can be a real innovation killer. Therefore, a change in mindset is crucial: organizations and their employees need to realize that compliance can actually assist in setting up innovative initiatives.

 3. The widely dreaded bureaucracy

Many organizations are hindered by the seemingly countless departments a proposal needs to pass through before any action can be taken. Employees with innovative ideas are often scared away by such drawn-out processes. They give up before they have even tried.

One way to break through this cycle of bureaucracy is to take calculated risks. On a case-by-case basis, try to determine whether it is acceptable to opt for a faster-than-usual route when it comes to an innovative initiative.

If so, you could try it out among a small number of end customers. Have them sign a contract stating that they are aware of being in a test group upfront. This will reassure the legal department and ensure that your end customers are involved in your innovation process!

Over the past years working with the amazing team at Triggre, I have learned a few valuable lessons on how to foster creativity in a team. Just because your team consists of the best people, doesn’t mean that they will be creative. And while it is absolutely true that some are more creative than others, stimulating creativity will nevertheless make a huge difference.

Define a clear goal

One of the most important things to do when increasing a team’s creative output, is to define a very clear goal. A clear goal doesn’t mean something that is defined in detail. Rather, it provides a guideline for the team to decide what to do. This means that a complete design document with all kinds of technical specifications is not a clear goal in the sense that I am talking about. “Making the world’s most efficient solar panel”, however is.

So a clear goal is a little bit further into the future, allowing for more ways to achieve it and doesn’t define details. Let me give you an example. Our product, Triggre, allows users to make software without technical knowledge. Our goal is to make our Designer as easy as it can be for those users, while still being able to make complex business applications.

This high-level goal has led our R&D team to come up with some fantastic solutions, including ways to prevent users making infinite loops in processes and a fantastically simple way of showing the user where something is wrong in his design.

Stupid ideas are good

The more stupid ideas, the better. This may sound counter-intuitive, but this is absolutely vital. As a team, when you’re trying to find a different way to do something, you need as many ideas you can come up with. Even if it is a blatantly obvious stupid idea, it needs to be shared.

While designing a new concept for our Triggre Designer, we would often brainstorm on some of the challenges. These brainstorms were often full of ideas that we knew wouldn’t work because they directly contradicted some part of our design philosophy. Still we shared those ideas and we would laugh at the funniest of them, all together. So how did that help us?

Well, the nice thing about ideas is that, even though they might not completely satisfy all the aspects you want in a solution. They usually embody a new way of solving the problem, if you have a clearly defined goal. Even if the idea doesn’t solve the problem, having a new perspective, no matter how silly, will trigger other ideas that may very well be the breakthrough you are looking for. So whatever you do, embrace stupid ideas. They’re worth way more than you might think.

Trust is absolutely vital

It takes a lot of guts for someone to share an idea, let alone one that is guaranteed not to be the solution. Especially if they’re not the one who’s in charge. On the one hand, saying you have a silly idea helps, but what’s more important is that someone actually gets to the point where they feel they are allowed to come up with ideas that won’t work in the first place. This requires a very high level of trust.

One of the best books I have ever read on creating a team, is The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams by Patrick Lencioni. It is a must-read for everyone who works in a team, leads a team or aspires to work in or lead a team. Yes, basically everyone, except hermits.

The trust needed ultimately comes back to the goal. Everyone on the team must understand that whatever idea is presented, it is done with the intention of reaching the goal. And that presenting an idea will never place them in a position of ridicule, but instead, the idea is highly valued no matter how wrong it may seem. This is perhaps the most important aspect of getting people to share.

As a leader, this means you never make fun of people’s ideas, never raise your voice because you think an idea is stupid, and definitely never take a shared idea as a personal attack. Because if you do, that sets an example for the rest of the team and trust will fade faster than an ice cream on a hot sunny day.

Kill your own ideas

If you are a team-leader, you will have to set an example. Not only by refraining from the negative, but also by showing the positive. One very good way to do this, is to go first with presenting an idea that won’t completely solve the problem, but gets people thinking. And then killing it, saying “Okay, that will never work. Can anyone else come up with another solution?”.

Do this frequently. Make sure you show your team that it is good to offer any idea, and that any idea can be dismissed, no matter who it came from. Keep doing this until you hit that one idea that simply nails it. You’ll know, because everyone agrees it’s the best way to do it.

Creativity is a process

Any solution is always just a step towards a goal. In one of my first blog posts, A guide from complexity to simplicity, I discuss exactly this attitude. It doesn’t matter if a decision you make turns out to be a step in the wrong direction. Just trace back your steps, and take a different approach.

If you want creativity to succeed, you will have to be open to the process of iterative improvement. That means sometimes you’ll find out something doesn’t work (anymore). Don’t get discouraged. A team that’s built on trust, is creative, and is willing to view everything as a prototype, will ultimately come up with a solution that is far superior to anything you can otherwise come up with.

Triggre’s awesome team has two offices, one in The Netherlands and one in Belarus. Working with one team that works at different locations asks for a great team spirit.

Whether culture-based or not, adapting to a new company culture has led to a great result: our Belarus establishment and the Netherlands-based office now act as a single team. To me, this shows that Triggre is built on a solid philosophy.

When I started working for Triggre, the office culture was extremely different than what I was used to. So when I started working with Triggre, a 180-degree switch was required: I needed to change my mind about a variety of basic processes.

The company’s revolutionary software makes the lives of business people much easier, and everyone in our team is aware of it: we are changing the IT world by enabling non-programmers to create applications for their own processes. This common purpose has helped unite our employees.

Below, I would briefly like to share some changes we went through in our Belarus office since we joined forces with Triggre. They will demonstrate the views and approach that characterize Triggre.

1. No hierarchy

Someone once told me that managers are only necessary for building processes that ultimately need to run without them. So in a company with fine-tuned processes, the traditional managers – the only kind we used to know in our Belarus office – are not required. At Triggre, directors help team members – they don’t manage them.

2. Maximum transparency

What is the status of a project? Who are our new customers? What are our short-term goals? The company I used to work for didn’t share this kind of news with employees, but Triggre does. We have regular meetings to discuss our annual plans and goals.

This type of involvement results in committed employees, since everyone knows what we are doing and why we are doing it. I’d like to stress out that these updates are really important for any employee of any organization!

3. Valuing talent

When you’re working with highly talented people, it’s a mistake to go the ‘traditional way’ and disregard their opinions about internal processes. At Triggre, we are constantly improving our processes, and many initiatives come from employees. Creativity is highly stimulated in our team.

Also, it is important to offer the employees a moment to share the results of their hard work. Like the Dutch office, the Belarus establishment now celebrates successes. This has worked very well: it helps build a good atmosphere and contributes to having more motivated employees!

The things listed above make Triggre very special to me. It’s all about creativity, freedom to share ideas and building trust within a team – across borders and cultures.