Attending a luncheon with my fellow IT execs, I was asked what is the greatest challenge in transforming and innovating technology? After pausing for a moment, knowing that most people were discussing challenges with integrating old platforms…I replied,”The organization’s culture and its people within the company have always been the greatest hurdle, not technology.” A few people looked puzzled which required some explanation to support my observation. I started off with a classical approach by asking a few questions to set the stage. “How does your company compete when everybody is using the same technology – hardware, software, and third party vendors? If everybody has the same starting point, how do you make an impact to stand out from the pack?
While no one wanted to be the first to answer, I offered my explanation. “It starts with people!” Some of the greatest innovative successes that I have had the privilege to lead, where born out of working with awesome people. My job focused on helping people, at multiple levels, see the vision by gathering business aspirations and translating them into real product and services backed by a visual technology roadmap that people could understand. Secondly, to spark innovation, transform your company culture by creating an environment that immerses people into technology and dare people to experiment. Our formula for innovation, written on the walls that echoed down the halls:
Experience Tech + Fail Fast + Learn + Have Fun = Produce WOW
- Experience technology through playing. (Our “Think Tank” was designed as a living room at work to play games!)
- Great things come from failure. Fail fast in a safe environment and learn.
- Have fun using technology and imagine how to create business value.
- Finally, create a product that WOW’s your customer.
The journey focuses on making people comfortable to express new ideas to create one-of-a-kind customer experiences that solve business problems. Why is it a journey? It’s never ending and requires extreme personal involvement to help people emerge from their comfort zone to participate.
Now for the hard part. A true inovation leader earns respect by having others follow only after making a personal connection by inspiring each person. Everyone is a snowflake, different in every way – motivation, emotion, communication, values – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs proposed this in his paper,”A Theory of Human Motivation.” You need to decide how you will touch each and everyone in your company. This was the hardest point for me to learn! Ask yourself, how will I inspire someone today to make a personal or professional difference in their lives? It’s NOT EASY! If you don’t, you can not lead and innovation will fail.
Often asked what’s my role is in an innovative culture? It’s an architect, sales person, presenter, developer, marketer, analyst, financier, operations, infrastructure dude, project manager, tester, recruiter, talent scout, mentor, mediator, and a demo guy!
Next post will address culture change, followed by “How to ideate business expectations to real products and services.
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