Strategic Innovation to Enable Innovation
Written by Nate Hutchins and Amy Muller
How many of you have launched an electronic suggestion box with great expectations of innovative ideas to transform the business? And how many of those expectations were realized? Actually, a well-designed electronic suggestion box is only part of the solution. To solicit and receive good ideas and to make those ideas into reality requires a system that goes beyond the suggestion box.
We all know why it is important to get the “front line” enthusiastically engaged in submitting ideas. While the upper levels of the hierarchy have the most experience, the front line is closest to your customers and the everyday problems that require innovative solutions. And giving the front line a chance to voice their ideas strengthens their sense of ownership in the company.
Using an online platform to engage your front line in innovation goes a long way to establish transparency, openness, and collaboration (hallmarks of an innovative culture). A well-thought-out online innovation system leverages another benefit of IT: speed. Bringing people together online through wikis, blogs, and other sharing mechanisms encourages rapid creation and implementation of innovative solutions; much faster than sequential, isolated emails and meetings.
But to successfully leverage all that IT has to offer to front line innovation, IT leaders must keep a few things in mind.
1. Focus the innovation on items of importance. Present the innovation challenge as a broad business goal, but “localize” the issue and present in the context of day-to-day activities. Inspire the person, not just the employee, with a goal to aspire: “Lifelong solutions for people with chronic disease” (Medtronic) inspires more transformational ideas than “Grow revenues by 50%”.
2. Provide clear and transparent decision criteria and feedback. Nothing frustrates potential innovators more than seeing their ideas fall into an electronic black hole or becoming victim to a mysterious political decision process. Provide constructive feedback on ideas to promote learning – and to get better ideas in the future.
3. Keep it fresh and adaptive. Enlist new online tools as they become available to encourage and support common interests and richer discussions. Use the platform not only as a “suggestion box” but also a means to recruit innovation teams, to gauge the crowd support of ideas, and to leverage in-house innovation experts. Recruit key leaders and influencers to participate. Keep the platform friendly by welcoming all ideas and discussions.
4. Develop the back end as well as the front end. All of the new ideas need someplace to go for review and prioritization. Make sure you have the required infrastructure (people, budget, and online support) to effectively manage the ideas you will receive. In the best case, the online system neatly interfaces to an existing innovation process. If not, now is the time to build your innovation process and pipeline.
5. Leverage your innovation platform as a training mechanism. Innovation rarely arises as the “Eureka” moment. Instead, generating new perspectives is a key enabler of successful innovation. Use the opportunity afforded by your online innovation system to train the potential innovators in ways to identify and gather new perspectives. Encourage blogging about relevant trends, consumer behavior, and changing industry and market dynamics. This way, your potential innovators will be “trained” using “live ammo” which is usually more successful than classroom training.
Amy Muller is a Director and Nate Hutchins is a Principal with Strategos, a global strategy and innovation consulting firm and the Strategic Services division of Innovaro. Visit their website: www.strategos.com
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.