How to foster innovation in your small business
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Innovation is not a tangible metric to be met, it is rather a culture and mindset that stems from stakeholders and leaders filtering all the way down to the engineers and testers. “As a result of the pandemic, leaders are now more than ever looking to innovation to help drive bottom-line growth and improve employee morale and organisational culture,” says Kevin Liebenberg, a Developer at Biz Dev.
The pandemic has resulted in an increase in mental health stress and employees are in desperate need of a work/life balance. Liebenberg believes that this is the single most important factor driving innovation in organisations. “Employees who are healthier and happier achieve better results, are less stressed and are more in control of their work deliverables.”
Liebenberg suggests the following tips to foster innovation in an organisation:
Trust your experts and allow autonomy – often extremely accomplished engineers are hindered by micro-management and inflexible processes. Allow those with incredible skill to utilise these as they feel necessary. Remember these individuals developed these skills on their own in the first place, don’t limit their ability to what is easily understandable by non-technical drivers.
Remove specific dates from timelines and roadmaps – these often create tension between stakeholders and engineers. A roadmap should rather be the strategic plan for the future with an overview of the intended goals and strategy, it should never be used as a promise of delivery to executives.
Do not push back on effort estimations, rather unpack and plan on a more granular level. Unintended bugs and faulty systems that are not maintainable are often a result of decreasing project time and intentionally causing a critical situation. This often leads to engineers burning out, which not only affects the current project but potentially impacts subsequent projects and timelines.
Understanding the why, both for stakeholders and engineers – the reason for the approach or introducing certain technology is just as important as the solution. Understanding the why allows all participants to contribute to future meetings and solutions but most importantly to not intentionally build a feature that will later turn out to be a stumbling block for future iterations.
Frequent communication, to stakeholders and customers – often stakeholders are not present until something is awry or a project is coming to a close, this creates a disconnect between the promises made in the conceptualisation of the project and reality of the situation come delivery.
Bring in outsiders, individuals who have worked in different industries and on different projects and different customers. These individuals offer a vast and different skillset to the ones already present and may be all that’s needed to overcome a hurdle and impact the culture positively. These people are not hindered by old failures and bad meetings, previous relationships or hierarchy, take note of the questions they ask when getting up to speed and value their perspective of the system as an outsider with professional skills.
A strong feedback loop, to set goals, evaluate progress and understand how decisions made affected the outcome.
Acknowledge success – make a point to acknowledge individuals who perform. This not only motivates the employee but can often drive others to innovate, reflect and improve themselves in search of such recognition.
Accountability of all parties – a good team culture of accountability starts with well-defined tasks and understanding each person’s roles and capabilities in the team.
Find the balance between tech and sustainability – not allowing new technology can be a huge hinderance to innovation, just as much as pushing too much new technology without a valid use or purpose.
By having a clear understanding of not only the needs of the business but also the skills that are already present in the organisation, innovation can be fostered without a negative impact on timelines and output. Liebenberg concludes, “All employees play a role in creating the organisational reputation of innovation and creativity that brings value, but this messaging needs to initially come from the stakeholders and leaders.”