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Council Post: 15 Practical Ways Tech Leaders…

Council Post: 15 Practical Ways Tech Leaders…

Apple CEO Steve Jobs was famous for promoting the idea of intrapreneurship—encouraging an innovative, entrepreneurial mindset among a company’s team members. And Apple isn’t the only big-name tech company that’s embraced the concept. The development of Gmail was spearheaded by then-Google employee Paul Buchheit, while a pair of scientists at 3M repurposed a “failed” adhesive into a global office staple: Post-it Notes.

Often, the best ideas come not from leadership but from team members engaged in the day-do-day work of a company. Encouraging everyone, at every level, in a company to pitch in with ideas can lead to revolutionary new products and services. Below, 15 members of Forbes Technology Council share practical ways tech leaders can foster a culture of innovation in their teams.

Members of Forbes Technology Council share practical ways tech leaders can foster an innovative mindset among team members.

Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Help Team Members Find The Art In What They Do

The value of a tech worker is nonlinear—a developer who grows by 10% may deliver 50% more to an organization, for example. As leaders, it’s our role to promote growth by removing the drudgery and helping team members find the art in what they do. We offer our teams space to think, the power to make decisions and the tools to automate away the busy work so they have time to nurture the skills that drive growth. – Meredith Bell, AutoRABIT

2. Let Tech Team Members Participate In Customer Calls

Make it acceptable for technical teams to have direct frontline exposure by participating in customer calls. This frees engineers up to see and hear the amazing impact, issues and opportunities tied to their tireless technical efforts. It humanizes their code, builds an emotional connection and creates the intrinsic desire to progress or innovate. – Jeff Schumann, Aware

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3. Ensure Teams Are Aligned On The Company’s Mission

The most important way is to ensure teams are aligned on the company’s mission. That should be the driving force behind all sorts of discussions and innovations. Otherwise, we could end up having innovation and even good work that doesn’t necessarily result in value for the business. – Henry Peter, Ushur

4. Reward Creativity And Eliminate Obstacles

By empowering team members, rewarding creativity and eliminating unnecessary obstacles, tech leaders can create an environment that inspires outside-the-box thinking and a fresh take on solving challenges. This is the key to fostering a culture where innovation thrives and can come from anyone and anywhere. – John Hernandez, Genesys

5. Tap Into Client Feedback

We leverage feedback from our clients when it comes to innovating our solutions—after all, they’re the ones on the ground implementing the tools. No idea is too small or big to suggest in our development Slack channel. Engineers then review each idea and determine how feasible it is and its priority level. – Shmulik Fishman, Argyle

6. Have One-To-One Conversations With Team Members

Rather than always have ideas percolate top-down, I both enjoy and find it useful to speak with individual team members. If the leadership team does this regularly, you often find those one-on-one conversations result in a better understanding of company priorities by the team members and a better understanding of pain points by leadership. – Ricky Sahu, 1upHealth

7. Let Team Members Stretch Outside Their Daily Scope

Innovation starts with being comfortable with thinking outside the box. It’s the responsibility of tech leaders to foster an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas outside of their daily scope. As a leader, showing respect to your team members as individuals and valuing their contributions, big or small, will empower them to be unafraid of failure and promote innovation at all levels. – Linda Brooks, Atlanticus

8. Sponsor A Hackathon

Companies can sponsor a hackathon! This gives employees a creative outlet to bring their best ideas forward, increase their visibility to senior leadership and collaborate in new and unique ways. The ideas generated often end up informing your future roadmap and allow for rapid testing of viability, all while increasing employee morale and engagement. – Matt Dickson, Stericycle Communication Solutions

9. Encourage Input From Those Closest To The Work

To create a culture of innovation, you have to allow decision making to happen at all levels of the organization. You want to allow the people closest to the work—who have the most insight and visibility—to play a key role in determining what “good” or “great” could look like. If you want your teams to keep generating new ideas, you need a culture that makes it safe and that values team members who do so. – Samantha Williams, Sonoco

10. Give Space For Experimentation And Failure

You have to create an environment where the team feels comfortable taking risks. That means giving team members the space to experiment and fail. It also means being open to new ideas and encouraging collaboration. Encouraging creativity with structure, setting up clear goals, encouraging feedback and celebrating successes (and failures) can help to achieve a creative environment. – Mohit Mittal, Chegg Inc.

11. Get Input From All Team Members Who May Have Insights

Collaboration is essential to move ideas along. Good collaboration includes taking input from all team members who might have expertise and insight that comes from their day-to-day work. This, for example, can help a company improve on a design that was previously considered optimal. This can help reduce the amount of reiterative work when coming up with a finished solution. – Kevin Beasley, VAI

12. Give Team Members Credit When It’s Due

Something I’ve learned over the years is to let teams refine ideas into real products and solutions while giving them credit for it. It accomplishes two things: driving innovation and building trust. To have a culture of innovation you must welcome diversity of thought, respectfully challenge one another and constantly be learning. When team members feel respected and supported, ideas come easily. – Scott Hambuchen, First Orion

13. Focus On Continuous Improvement

Creating an open and safe environment where continuous improvement is part of the DNA is important. Equally, creating genuine time to think and explore strategic ways to innovate within the group is essential. Innovation is best encouraged with representation from all functions from a customer journey or system view. Fostering an external mindset in initiating innovation yields clear results. – Dax Grant, Global Transform

14. Meet Team Members Where They ‘Live’

There should be many channels, each customized to the different ways team members want to communicate their ideas. Meet your team where they “live”: for engineers, a GitHub repo for product ideas might make sense, while for sales you may want to schedule regular brainstorming sessions. Innovation comes from unlikely places; don’t block that by making all ideas come through a single channel. – Lewis Wynne-Jones, ThinkData Works

15. Delegate More

When you give your team more responsibility, you give them an opportunity to prove themselves. Additionally, you will have more time for business development. After completion of work, conduct a retrospective debrief. Talk to the employees about how they did, what could be improved and what changes they would make to the process. The trust you put in your team will be rewarded with innovation. – Nicholas Domnisch, EES Health

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