Innovation is borne out of culture and process. Depending on who you speak to you will be told that it is either the unique talent of the special few… or the outcome of a mixture of team effort, smart thinking and a generous helping of luck.
In reality it is one, all, or none of those things at any one time. It is a pretty ephemeral but highly aspirational goal to be an innovative company, team or individual. After all how do you go about quantifying and measuring it? One man’s innovation is another’s process change or product iteration for example.
The question I wanted to look at here is how software can help drive this process, or perhaps even one step higher – can it?
Experience tells us that the answer to this question is not simple. There is clear evidence to prove that giving people the right specialist tools to help address a specific problem or process issue is valuable. However, tools are just tools and software is just a tool, so what impact can it have?
I kicked this thought piece off with the statement ‘innovation is borne out of culture and process’ and I absolutely stand by this assertion. Anything that a business can do to help foster and instill both of these at the heart of the business when it comes to innovation should be explored, and where successful, embraced.
So how can software impact culture?
We live in an extremely complex (and fascinating) world in terms of organisational culture. The vast majority of employees are active and avid users of a whole host of new technology outside of work, but within work their options are typically very restricted.
I spoke recently to a room of executives who were piloting the use of iPads by allowing all the company execs to have an iPad (which struck me more as a rouse for execs to get an iPad!!). We work with other businesses who allow complete freedom of hardware and software selection. The cultures are worlds apart, I would hazard a guess that so are the engagement and productivity levels of their staff also!
Software and the freedom to use tools that can help people to do the things they need to do better, can and does have a huge effect on the overall culture of an organisation and does impact on innovation. By giving employees the tools, flexibility, freedom and trust to use the tools they want to use to do their jobs more open and collaborative cultures can emerge. Many companies live in fear of data leakage or productivity being hit by so called “Social Notworking!”. But all the evidence points to the opposite being true, where the culture reinforces the selections made productivity is actually enhanced.
Choosing specialist tools can also help. Software with a clear purpose can make a huge difference. It is important for the delineation of tasks, such that people know for task type ‘a’ they go to the tool for ‘a’ type tasks and so on. Where there is a huge proliferation of technology this can be hard to manage, but having more niche, specialist tools can really help with this.
A quick guide would therefore be:
- Select the right tools for the job and allow your employees the freedom to make these choices;
- Select the right tools for the job, don’t be afraid of selecting a wider range of applications with more focused purpose, engagement is often higher and more targeted;
- Where possible choose tools that can integrate along the value chain so that the flow is as seamless as possible;
- Communicate and lead by example, such that people feel empowered and free to use these tools and services;
- Deliver results, there is nothing worse for ongoing impact or engagement than seeing no return for the efforts made, it is important that there is a focus on results and shared successes.
Simon Hill is CEO and co-founder of Wazoku, an idea software company, an Associate Director with the Venture Capital Firm FindInvestGrow and an active member of the London technology and entrepreneurial community.