Upscaling your ideas – Advice from the big players

Cat Mules

Cat Mules

Whether you’re a developer or business owner, today’s innovation is much more than just updating a piece of software. Here are four tips from Google, Yahoo! and Amazon leaders on building a more holistic programme.

How to foster innovative ideas? Innovation works best when both technologists and organisational leaders collaborate to drive the process. We know now – in New Zealand and globally – that innovation is the new oil seeping through business and society.

Technology and transformation is underpinning all innovations. Check out these four focus areas for insights into the innovative process.

1. Teamwork with technology is key

A collaborative culture underpins innovation strategy. “If I give you a penny, then you’re a penny richer and I’m a penny poorer, but if I give you an idea, then you will have a new idea but I’ll have it too,” says ex-Google CEO and technical advisor, Eric Schmidt, in How Google Works.

Google Co-Founder and CEO Larry Page also explains, individuals and small teams can now have far-reaching impact, empowered by new information and scientific capabilities.

Cloud technology partnership, in particular, opens windows to team with new capabilities. Whether you’re using the leading SaaS innovator’s Azure Cloud ecosystem – or leaning on providers to help you manage them – a strategy for innovation is almost sure to be a part of your future.

2. Make it clear how you’ll help the world

There’s a lot anxiety about technological disruption, and how it will impact society. Obi Felten, Head of X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory with the ambition of radical innovations to make the world a better place, recommends “While the temptation may be to try and slow down technological progress, the best antidote to this anxiety is to remember that society has the power to shape new technologies.”

Two social objectives permeate Felten’s moonshot team’s thinking. First, to make sure nobody is left behind – to enable all with the latest breakthroughs and sources of information. Second, to be prepared for an always-changing future that will be shaped by unprecedented inventions.

Past VP at Yahoo! and head of their Brickhouse incubator, Salim Ismail, also explains how technology is transforming the world, moving us from questions of scarcity to realistic possibilities of abundance. In a world of rapid change, where we are less dependant on static or controlled growth serves less meaning than ever, Ismail quotes Mark Zuckerbeg – “The biggest risk is not taking any risk”.

Use metrics help to transform ideas into tangible reality, and provide results based on regular, agreed indicators. Exponential futurist Ismail explains that Open ExOs, organisations driven by a massive transformative purpose, often adopt the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) method. This approach, formed by Intel CEO Andy Grove, tracks goals and outcomes on individual, team and company levels openly and transparently, answering two baseline questions: “Where do I want to go? (Objectives) How will I know I’m getting there? (Key Results to ensure progress is made)”

3. Get feedback from users early on

Of the many approaches to running a business but e-commerce pioneer Jeff Bezos of Amazon, proves an obsession with customers’ needs underlies scalable success in the online age. A counter risk? Being too separate from real world contexts and losing sight of what your customers want. Alphabet’s X warns against dreaming up ideas from your office or lab – “The world, be it public opinion or the realities of nature, will tell you quickly and bluntly what’s broken with your idea and how you can improve on it.”

Test out the viability of ideas with users through regular, small iterations. A key to these small steps is innovating based on user feedback. If the idea doesn’t resonate with users, listen to them – they are always right. Persona mapping, A/B testing, user focus groups – there are many ways to start thinking about how your users respond to different implementations.

4. Learn fast through regular feedback, and celebrate failure

A constant theme present in popular modern planning ideas is the need to learn rapidly and accept that this involves failure.

“The business should always be outrunning the processes, so chaos is right where you want to be,” says then-Google leader, Eric Schmidt. While a rules and hierarchy-based approach made sense in more stable times, freedom and autonomy take precedence for internet-giant Google – whose dress code of “You must wear something” noticeably lax.

A principle of Alphabet’s X is also that changing the world relies on a willingness to take risks. Years of schooling and corporate conditioning have taught us that it’s bad to hand in less-than-polished work. But when you’re taking moonshots, it’s nearly impossible to get things right the first time. Or even the second or third time.”

If you don’t push hard enough – you’ll never get out of your comfort zone. Amazon Founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, explains, considering Amazon’s transformation from selling books to innovating for customer needs with a product-diverse and infrastructure-light supply strategy: “You cannot invent and pioneer, if you cannot accept failure. To invent, you need to experiment. If you know in advance that it’s going to work, it is not an experiment.”

Cat Mules

Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.

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