What Product Companies Can Do To Foster Innovation

Date:   Wednesday , July 13, 2016

Headquartered in Minneapolis, IDeaS Revenue Solutions offers cutting-edge revenue management and advisory solutions that redefine the Travel & Hospitality space by increasing client\'s revenue by up to 20 percent.

Big Data has radically changed the way enterprise software works today. Companies are increasingly adopting business analytics and big data. Research firm IDC puts the market for big data technology and services at a CAGR of 23 percent through 2019, with annual spending reaching $48.6 billion.

With the sheer volume of data involved and increasing complexities in analytics, it is imperative for technology companies to continuously sharpen their core algorithm capabilities and decision delivery mechanisms, while also creating new product lines. With a number of specialized startups emerging as competition, it is imperative for companies to have sustainable and structured, customer-relevant innovation programs within the organization, where new ideas are conceived and nourished.

Harnessing Innovation to Create Successful Products

I believe innovation is the \'commercialization of creativity\'. For a company to nurture a culture of innovation, it needs to create a culture where ideas are generated and incubated. These ideas must be invested in, developed, evaluated and ultimately, crafted into existing product lines or into independent products. In a company, there exist a number of people who can bring in one or more of these capabilities, but perhaps not all. That\'s why innovation programs must not be restricted only to the \'conceiver\' of the idea, but should permeate across various roles in the organization at appropriate stages. It is important that Human Resources (HR) serves as a lynchpin for such programs. The role of HR hence encompasses not only recruiting the right talent with the right mindset, but also in creating a workplace culture that is a fertile ground for idea generation.

Identifying Innovators

Innovation-driven companies need team players with strong technical skills as well as a good mix of business aptitude, product management and people management skills. It is in the company\'s advantage to have its employees be adept in more than one of the above skills. Here are some particular traits that make innovators distinct from others in the organization:

1. Insatiable Urge to Dabble with New Technology & Always Focus to Move Forward: Intrapreneurs demonstrate high level of flexibility and adaptability. In addition, they are passionate about their chosen domain, with strong willingness to learn and readiness to drive the company to accomplish.

2. Ability to Question the Status Quo: Not afraid to try out new things, they challenge the norm to change it for the better and are natural risk takers.

3. Quick Prototyping Skills: This is the ability to overcome inertia, design experiments for self-validation of the concept.

4. Conviction to Validate Ideas with Internal & External Stakeholders: This would need people to have the ability to look at the validity of ideas from multiple dimensions - business, technology, engineering, financial and marketability.

5. Caliber to \'Productize\' their Ideas: This requires a lot of product engineering and project management skills.

Innovative companies are able to provide environments that breathe all of the above. This is achieved through formal and informal mechanisms. While it is commonplace to have product hackathons and \'me-times\', it is extremely important to breed an environment that thrives on collaboration. This would mean investments not only in the right processes, but also relevant training programs and also the working infrastructure. Companies also align their rewards and recognition programs towards promoting the essential values that drive innovation.

Companies leverage structured assessment frameworks to be able to identify areas for training aligned with its innovation goals. This would mean that a technology expert would be exposed to some fundamentals of strategy and business, or a project manager would be imparted skills in finance. Executive mentorship also goes a long way to fast-track the truly motivated.

Strategically Hiring & Nurturing the Right Talent

It is also very important that new hires in the company are able to quickly fit in and adapt to this culture. This means that the hiring should not be only for skill, but also for attitude. Human Resources can play a significant part here. The recruitment process has to allow for holistic evaluation of the entrepreneurial quotient of the hire. For example, the job description curated for intrapreneurs should be different than that of regular hires. At every stage of hiring, different stakeholders from different departments should interact with potential candidates. This process can be difficult, but results in a good talent pool with the right technical skill-sets, attitude and aptitude. It is extremely important for hiring managers to be able to hire someone who is better than himself in some aspects, if not all aspects.

Intrapreneurs look for newer career paths and solutions to problem statements. Managers should have the ability to rise above the mundane, recognize, promote and then \'give-away\' the potential game-changers. The best people have to be invested away from the bread-winning strategies of today into opportunity areas for tomorrow. The faster companies recognize this, the longer they will survive.