Innovate. The sometimes uncomfortable path forward

  • Posted on August 7, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Innovate The sometimes uncomfortable path forward

This article was originally written by Avanade alum Curt Galusha

Overly dramatic? Maybe. But today’s customers and employees demand more. If how you interact with them isn’t quick and simple… If your technology doesn’t predict and make suggestions… or a journey takes twelve steps instead of three… or your experience and solution isn’t natural, then you are at risk.

End customers will give you one, maybe two chances. If you don’t satisfy them, then they move to a competitor. Your co-workers are no different. Make things hard for them or don’t keep up, and you risk them heading down the block to your competitor. Your revenues – and knowledge – literally walk out the door.

How do you tackle these challenges, especially in this day of COVID-19 when many things have been put on hold? Large projects have been scrutinized. Are the projects worth the investment? Should we allocate those resources elsewhere? 

The answer is to embrace a culture of innovation. A culture of innovation includes an openness to accept all ideas, a process to hear those ideas, prioritize, validate and activate. Innovation is collaboration that stands up solutions via a business hardened methodology.

To be clear: Innovation is not an event. It’s not a platform. It’s not a date circled on the calendar. It is not flighty or ungrounded. 

Rather, innovation is a framework to follow that allows for the best thinkers of business, technology, sales, management, HR, operations, finance, and logistics to come together to learn from each other, to collaborate and tackle important go-to-market or board-level, business-changing activities.

Wait… I can’t be innovative
Wrong. Yes, you can.  For most in the tech world, innovation is not something that comes naturally. Left brained people like their box. They can control the known. They can manage ‘The Process’. Innovation can be just that: A defined, manageable process to break down walls and demand that you think differently. The process allows you to use a different, untapped area of your brain. 

And what happens is that you become comfortable being uncomfortable.

But innovation is exactly that: The art of being uncomfortable. So, you can explore new ideas. And put new dots in the room, then connect those dots in fresh and disruptive ways. 

True innovation is when you push beyond your normal bounds and think about challenges differently. It’s when a problem does not have a direct line answer or when you look at a challenge from beyond 360 degrees. True innovation is when you are honestly comfortable being uncomfortable.

So how do you get there?

1. Empower yourself 
Stretch and grow. Look in the mirror and truly understand what you’re great at. Recognize that your experience and perspective will help shape a new innovative solution, but you need the help and expertise of others to take a good innovative idea and make it great, even world-class. 

2. Accept others’ differences
Understanding where others are coming from, cutting through how they say things to what they are saying, then debating / adapting / collaborating on the plus. Understand that their strengths may fill the gaps in what you offer, and that collectively you are stronger together. Accept differences, because in those differences comes the strength and solidity you need to put something robust in place.

3. 1+1=3
One perspective is not enough. Having others who offer push-back or alternative points-of-view doesn’t tear down an idea. Rather, is builds that idea up. A left-brained finance director teamed with a right-brained business lead can inspire magic because each one looks at the problem differently. Together, the stage for inspirational ideas is set so that both are excited. 

4. Be a ‘safe zone’ for ideas
Innovation is a mature idea, and those mature ideas are simply kernels of thought that have been torn down, baked, and built back up. No idea should be every be laughed at. Laughed with? Certainly! (Because off-the-cuff ideas when strung together can drive inspiration.) Ideas should never, ever be chastised. Take an idea and tease it out. I’ve seen many, many times when off-center, even the most sideways of ideas are offered that those ideas are then threaded into something amazing. Ideas and openness are absolute keys to growth and innovation.

5. Accept, then grow from failure
Think about when you were young, and you were pining to get big. You desperately wanted to begin riding a bike. Or bake a batch of cookies from scratch. Or hit a baseball. You tried and tried and tried. And failed. Only a rare few got it right the first time. For most of us – including me – it takes falls, scars, burnt puck of dough or another swing and a miss. But you didn’t give up. You learned and kept going. And eventually you overcame. Now, those small victories become second nature.

Understand that sometimes Innovation means not achieving true goals. That’s ok. The learnings that you capture and the open culture that you are moving towards will make the Innovation experience even more successful. Like skinning your knees, growing and learning are a part of the process.

6. Drive a culture that celebrates innovation
Innovation is a shift of culture and a new frame of mind. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow. And, yes, sometimes innovation means that you fail. Celebrate free thinking. Then, ground the strongest ideas in business practicum and methodologies. And work to build innovative solutions that attract and retain new customer and employees. 

‘Risk of status quo’ is the new B-school phrase. Now more than ever, innovation is the foundational path for moving forward. Customers and employees demand more. Don’t be satisfied. Look for new ways and bold directions to attract and retain business and employees. Today is the perfect time to look at your business with a fresh, Innovation-first perspective: 

So… how will you stay ahead? How will you innovate? 

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Sophie Zammit

Great article with great advice !

August 21, 2020

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