5 Ways IT Managers Can Make Innovation Happen On Their IT Teams

by drjim on September 25, 2014

Innovation will only happen if the IT manager knows how to grow it

Innovation will only happen if the IT manager knows how to grow it

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“More innovation, please!” This is what IT managers have been hearing on a daily basis for the past few years. I think that we all understand why we’re being asked to help out, everyone believes that we have the IT manager skills that are needed to make this happen and they believe that we’ve had the IT manager training that will allow us to make this happen. What IT managers need is just a little bit of help in discovering exactly how to go about growing some of that innovation stuff…

5 Ways To Grow Innovation

Innovation on an IT team does not just happen. Instead, as the IT manager you are going to have to set the stage so that innovation can grow. There is no one magical thing that you can do to make this happen. Rather, there are a number of different things that you’ll have to do all at the same time. These things are:

  • Make Ownership Happen: Everyone likes to be recognized and in our modern workplace this happen all too rarely. When you want innovation to occur on your IT team, go out of your way to recognize an individual’s contribution to a project when it happens. This may be unexpected, but it will always be appreciated. When you start doing this, everyone will start to work even harder because they all want to receive your praise.
  • Welcome Ideas: The thing that you need to understand about innovation is that you can never tell where it will be coming from. Ideas do not flow from the top down; often the best ideas will come out of nowhere. This means that you need to stay open to receiving new ideas no matter where they originate.
  • Welcome New Products: Understand that the way that your company normally develops new products does not encourage innovation. Instead, stay open to ideas for new products. Work with your team to make prototypes and then run them by your internal and external customers to see if this is really what they want. If it isn’t, then let the product die. If it is, then you can active the company’s new product development process.
  • Pick & Choose Your IT: All too often in IT we are on the lookout for that one magical application that will solve all of our problems – can anyone say ERP? Instead of trying to tie your innovation teams down waiting for the ultimate IT product, allow them to pick and use the tools that best meet their needs right now. Yes, you’ll probably end up with a bunch of different software tools, but they’ll be the right tools for your team and they can be using them right now.
  • Fail: As always, one of the keys to being really innovative is not being afraid to fail. Make sure that your team knows that you expect them to fail. However, you want them to also understand that you need them to learn from every failure and to take what they’ve learned and apply it to their next effort.

What All Of This Means For You

IT managers generally feel very comfortable dealing with all of the technology related issues that come along with the job. It’s when we get into the gray areas, like IT team building and how to make innovation happen on our team that things tend to get a bit more complicated. There is not just one thing that we need to do in order to make innovation happen, but rather several things.

Innovation has a lot to do with ownership – everyone needs to feel that they are responsible for something. Ideas are where innovation starts and they need to be allowed to grow. New products hold the secret to your company’s future and they need to be allowed to grow also. Use best-of-breed IT tools to solve today’s problems and worry about tomorrow’s problems later on. Finally, understand that you are going to fail and so make sure that you fail carefully.

Sadly, innovation is not something that an IT team can just “do”. Instead it’s going to be up to the IT manager to grow innovation within your team. There’s not one magical thing that you can do, but rather several things that you need to be doing. Use these 5 suggestions and get your first crop of innovation growing!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What the best way to recognize team members for being innovative without alienating everyone else?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager you have always be looking for people that you would like to add to your team. However, once you’ve used you IT manager skills to find them, convinced them to join your team, and actually gotten then on board, what should your next step be? It turns out that the answer is RITA…

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