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There’s no better way to sum up the importance of innovation in the business landscape of the 21st century than to quote the late Steve Jobs: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Innovation isn’t exclusively a modern fixation, though – in fact, it has been the driving force behind every significant leap forward in technology, from the wheel to the printing press. In the modern business landscape, though, innovation has taken on new importance as a central goal of many forward-thinking companies, and the means for achieving it have practically come down to a scientific pursuit.
In this blog, we’ll look at cultivating a culture of collaboration in IT, and how this helps you build more innovative teams.
Something that many businesses seem to forget is that you can’t have any hope of building a collaborative and innovative team without a foundation of mutual respect and trust. There are a number of ways to achieve this: being transparent with your staff about your business objectives and challenges, encouraging their input from an early stage, taking an interest in each individual’s performance, and understanding how the different members of your team learn and work best are all ways of showing your staff that they matter to your business. It isn’t just about making your staff feel appreciated, though. Involving team members in decision-making from the beginning of a project gives them a sense of ownership, and encourages your entire team to stay committed until the very last step, resulting in higher overall quality of the finished product.
For the most innovative organisations in the world, the ability to innovate isn’t an external feature only possessed by a select few of the top performers in the company: it’s an intrinsic feature of their company culture. To ensure that a culture of innovation permeates every facet of your organisation, you need to lead by example at the highest levels of management. A leader who is constantly seeking new and innovative ways of doing things inspires the rest of your workforce to follow suit, and rewarding staff for innovative ideas and encouraging out-of-the-box thinking wherever possible will go a long way. This doesn’t mean that the upper levels of your organisation need to be creative visionaries – by simply cultivating a culture that is open to innovation from the top down, you’re creating the foundation from which great new ideas can spring forth.
Collaboration in IT depends not only on a variety of skills, but also a variety of personality types that work well together. For a team to collaborate and come up with innovative ideas and solutions, you’ll need to have an ideal mix of ‘thinkers’ and ‘doers’. In a blog on innovationmanagement.se, the authors discuss “building a bigger box rather than trying to fit inside it.” For projects in which innovation is a key objective, it’s necessary to have a strong creative team in the initial brainstorming stages. However, creative thinkers are notorious for being less adept at project management – which is why it’s important to balance out the creative thinkers on your team with practical ‘doers’ who make sure that the creative work is met with the right amount of structure to ensure the work gets done. That’s what the authors mean by ‘building a bigger box’ – rather than encouraging your team to ‘think outside the box’ and then rein their ideas in to fit the criteria, try to build your teams in such a way that the sum total of their personalities, skills and working styles is greater than its constituent parts.
So, what are some character traits that you should look for when putting together your dream team? We’ve already discussed thinkers and doers as broad categories of the types of people you’re likely to have in your organisation, but let’s take a closer look at some common personality traits that facilitate collaboration in IT:
It is critical to put together a team that is self-motivated. This doesn’t necessarily mean every member of your team has to be a self-starter – it’s often enough to have a team leader who can inspire the rest of his or her team to take ownership for their work and become more diligent and pragmatic in their approach to tasks.
This is something we’re used to hearing about innovators – Apple called them ‘the crazy ones’: the ones that draw outside the lines; the ones that ‘think different’. Creative thinkers are invaluable for any innovation project, but as we mentioned earlier, they aren’t capable of doing everything themselves.
Collaboration in IT is obviously dependent on members of your team working together. Conflict is inevitable – and, to a certain extent, it’s a natural and healthy part of a team dynamic – but innovative teams need to include members who can find common ground rather than reasons for confrontation. This is the one trait you’d ideally like every member of your team to exhibit.
To a certain extent, competition is a healthy and necessary trait of teams. The right amount of competitive tension in a team can push individuals beyond their perceived limitations and result in a much higher quality of the finished product. However, too much competition within a team can quickly become a disabling factor for less competitive individuals, so managing this is a constant balancing act.
Having a powerful business proposition means little without being equipped with the perfect team to conceptualise, develop and execute properly. ECS Digital is a DevOps consultancy with over 12 years’ experience in bringing teams closer together to create more innovative solutions for organisations all around the world. To find out more about the solutions we offer, visit our websiteor contact us directly.
Image Credit:David Didau