It is well known that adopting the right technology mix is essential in ensuring that your business is efficient, productive and competitive. It is also no secret that the rate of change in the technology space is growing exponentially.
This presents a variety of challenges for businesses both large and small on how best to stay ahead of the curve. Given the immense choice and variety of new apps, software and services, it is impossible to be across it all, let alone select and successfully adopt the solution that best meets your needs.
If you get it right, it can be a core component of your competitive edge, but there are pitfalls also. Inadequate technology, lack of training, incomplete adoption can all lead to negative results - in a big way!
While there are many ways that new technology can be introduced into the business, one of the most powerful is from staff identifying areas of pain and opportunities to innovate in order to make things better.
To foster this type of innovation, some essential shared values must be present and in practice.
- Learn Everyday
- Challenge the Status Quo
- Embrace Failure
The driver of change is a desire to improve and it starts with every person in your organisation.
Having a team that is dedicated to constantly challenging themselves and learning new things is a critical value in ensuring that staff are willing to embrace something new. Ultimately we should work towards an environment that incorporates the process of learning new tools and trying new techniques as a part of day to day business.
What does this look like practically? It could be as simple as encouraging staff to explore and discover new apps and other technology that they feel may improve their work. Learn a new tech shortcut that makes them more efficient or research a new technique. Allowing people to grow their understanding of how they do their work and encourage them to change their mind.
Challenge the Status Quo
Leading on from personal learning, the next most important is improving the business.
With staff actively exploring and investigating ways of improving how they work personally, a team should be also challenging the status quo of how the whole business operates.
As a business, rate of change is so high that it is almost essential to improve your operations every day. Instilling the value of challenging how things are done now, in order to do them better is how this happens.
In your business, this could be encouraging people to talk when they have a view on how new technology can be introduced or changed to do things better. Together as a team, you should have a shared understanding that these discussions should be had early and often, and that the fact that an idea or opinion is not adopted is not a bad thing, but a learning process. Encourage sharing ideas even if it is not fully formed or complete. It all helps!
Encouraging employees to challenge the status quo and make constant improvements are one thing, but how do we ensure that they actually feel comfortable providing that feedback and continuing to make suggestions to improve.
Building trust within an organisation is crucial! It creates an environment where employees feel confident to put ideas forward.
Trust gets built from the top down and the bottom up. As leaders, and as colleagues, we need to ensure that ideas are not dismissed, but rather acknowledged and elaborated on. When new ideas and feedback are not adopted, it needs to be clearly communicated as to why.
Below are some strategies to bring this value to life.
Get to know each other: Establishing positive relationships with each of your colleagues can really boost morale and assist in providing a good, trusting environment for feedback, challenging the status quo and improving.
Time and place: When asking if you can give someone feedback, give them the option to say no or set another time. This allows freedom to postpone certain conversations when it comes to receiving feedback.
“Yes, and..” instead of “no, but”: When someone does provide feedback, encourage all people to choose their language carefully. When you say “Yes” you are verbally agreeing with the person you are talking to, you’re letting them know in no uncertain terms that you’re listening. Then the “And” is where you contribute something. You build a sense of confidence and trust to continue to contribute.
Failure is often a taboo subject, something that is to be avoided by most people, especially in the workplace! However, in order to foster an innovative environment we need to ensure that failure is something accepted and even encouraged!
In order to establish this, processes and procedures need to be flexible and employees need to understand that there is not just a single answer but instead are encouraged to experiment in the problem solving process. Coupling this with structure can ensure that you have a guide for setting budgets (failing cheaply) and quick decision-making to ensure that you learn and improve quickly (failing fast).
Validating ideas carefully: Make sure that you start out asking the correct questions, and then order your experiments in a more effective way. E.g. assess strategic risks first to rule out experimentation first.
Lower the costs of experiments: Set budgets, ensure that your experiments don’t cost a lot of money. Focus on the essential components to validate if the new technology provides value, rather than evaluating full feature sets or nice to have components. Choose a low cost way to test ideas.
Increase the pace of decision making: Quickly iterate over testing, evaluating and adjusting. Ensure decisions are made quickly on changing direction, and on whether the idea is showing value. Stopping projects that are flawed can reduce unnecessary spending.
Failure is important part of learning what works and what doesn’t. By failing fast and cheap you can quickly cycle through ideas and this can result in find the best idea. Ensure failure is not a dirty word, but rather the opposite! Encourage the learning process.