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January 3, 2014

How To Make 2014 a Banner Tech Year

Posted by Soundararajan S (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:50 AM

Being "Intrapreneurial": How to increase innovation in any organization [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1XGPJC0alU]

Self-evaluation forms. Project plans. Long meetings with department heads. And, of course, the various brainstorming sessions. Sounds like we have all the trappings of a new corporate year.

For most of us, the year that begins in January is a chance at renewal - an opportunity to assess what we've accomplished and to chart an ambitious course on our respective journeys. As business leaders we're expected to develop new products and services with very little outside assistance. A test of a team's effectiveness is its ability to operate independently and deliver outside-the-box results ... often within strict budgetary and time constraints.

For engineering and other technology leaders, the challenge is even more complex and challenging. For the right things to happen, we try to get everyone on our team to brainstorm and to throw their own ideas into the ring. I've found that a lot of a team's efforts and energies can go towards synchronizing all that brainstorming into one, clear pipeline. If you can finesse your team's activities effectively, you can make sure that its major decisions occur when all stakeholders are prepared to be making them.

In some ways, I'm describing the very essence of how innovation occurs within a large enterprise. Everyone needs to act and think like an entrepreneur but within guidelines to which everyone can adhere.

How do you plan to innovate in the coming year? And how are you going to do so with flawless teamwork?

I once knew a very successful businessman who started up his own business. He got off to a rocky start, much like anyone in a new marketplace trying to compete against more established, well-financed players. He knew that part of his success would be predicated on his ability to go at it alone. If he could build the business on his own and with relatively little assistance, the market would reward him.

His was a chicken-or-egg scenario, however. He needed to demonstrate his flair for entrepreneurship. But he also needed enough critical mass to get the business off the ground, which, of course, took seed funding. He later told me that the best and most lasting takeaway from that experience was how he learned to balance being fairly self-sufficient with not being afraid to ask potential business partners for the right amount of funding.

The lesson here for those of us operating within large organizations is that we should learn to balance our innovation journeys in much the same way. We want to allow our team sufficient leeway to approach matters from a fresh perspective. We also want to make certain that the methodology is such that everyone has the proper tools and understanding of the mission so that the team's time and energy is utilized most efficiently.

Try tapping into your organization's depth of expertise in places where you otherwise wouldn't look. I've discovered that colleagues who are in leadership roles somewhat different than mine can become the best mentors. Suppose you're in marketing. It would be quite simple to approach other people in the marketing department. But maybe the next time you ran into someone you knew in engineering, you sat down with her and discussed some of the issues your team was confronting.

Now extend that principle to the entire team. Suppose everyone on the team approached someone in the organization outside of his or her areas of expertise. Chances are you'd bring a lot ore to the table the next time you meet. It's human nature to be receptive to a colleague who solicits your knowledge and expertise. So your team's innovation journey will deepen quite effortlessly by tapping into outside resources.

The practice of expanding your knowledge base also serves as an indirect way of keeping everyone on the team in synch. Because they're all aware of outside contributions, they'll work harder to communicate amongst themselves. The ensuing process - of building up and processing a basket of ideas - will result in everyone acknowledging that they've come to the team's make-or-break moment. That's when you take your journey of innovation to a whole new level.

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