It Takes A Village To Innovate Like An IT Department

by drjim on October 29, 2009

Innovation In An IT Department Is Not Done Alone

Innovation In An IT Department Is Not Done Alone

So IT Leader, what are you going to do about boosting the innovation within your team? Your hands are tied when it comes to giving out raises – not that money really helps innovation. You don’t have any spots to offer promotions into because the company has adopted a “flat” organizational structure. Oh, and all of your workers are running around afraid that they might lose their jobs any day now. Good luck with making innovation happen here!

It’s All About Words

Sure we read about big “innovation generation” exercises that those fancy firms put on where they haul everyone out into the woods for a week and make them climb trees together until they agree to work together if only they’d be allowed to return home and eat normal food once again. It turns out that as an IT Leader, you can make innovation happen within your team by doing something much simpler (and less costly).

Innovation happens when the right person talks with the right person. As an IT Leader it’s your job to make this happen. This means that you’ve got to know both your team and the rest of the company. Since you know your staff, you know what their talents are. Using this information, you need to have them go out and talk with the other parts of the company where there are people with complementary talents.

Just Make A Decision Already!

If you want to kill innovation in your department, then the simplest thing that you can do is to make it hard to get permission to test a new idea. All too often the decision making processes that we have in place are legacy artifacts that are left over from days gone by.

If you take a look at just what it takes in order for a fresh idea to bubble to the surface and get permission to be tested, then you’ll know what needs to change. This process should have as little friction as possible and should be perceived as being easy to do.

Who’s In Charge Here?

When it’s time to come up with a new idea, the person that you appoint to run the show will be key to its success or failure. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone but we naturally tend to choose the best performers in one particular area to lead the team that is in charge of innovating. It turns out that this is the wrong decision.

What we should be doing is realizing that success in this area is going to really be more dependent on connections that the leader has with other parts of the company instead of any special technical skills that they may have. This means that we need to find those team members who are the best “hooked in” and let them lead the team.

Come Together, Right Now…

Where people sit and who they work side-by-side with is key to their ability to come up with innovative ideas. If you insist that your team members sit in the same location or if you resist transferring people to other departments to work on a project, then you’ll be acting as a roadblock to the very innovation that you are so desperately seeking.

Beware Energy Vampires

Hopefully it goes without staying that it’s much easier to work with positive people instead of negative people. This is something that you’ve got to watch out for and plan around very carefully.

It can be very easy to identify those people that will enable your team to make forward progress and those that will drain both their energy and enthusiasm. Once you know this, then you’ve got to work to keep your team away from the “energy vampires” so that they’ll remain highly productive.

Final Thoughts

Nobody ever said that being an IT Leader was going to be an easy job. One of your responsibilities is to make sure that your team is able to create and deliver innovative ideas. With little budget or other such levers, you’re going to have to get creative.

Knowing that innovation is often caused by having your staff interact with others, you need to make sure that such opportunities exist. Simplifying decision making and ensuring that novel ideas can be tested is a good way to foster innovation. Remember that in the end, an IT team that be innovative will have the ability to solve the greatest number of business problems.

What’s the one thing that holding you back from being more innovative?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What is it going to take for you to get promoted? What set of skills as an IT Leader do you need to develop in order to have any chance at moving up to the next level? If you don’t know what you need to know, then how is that promotion going to happen?

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