How to set up your company for innovation


An amazing change is happening in the way we think about work and management. Companies today are operating in a completely different world compared to the business landscape of the last decades. As new needs emerge we discover that traditional management tools and corporate structures do not provide for the evolving challenges.

Today’s companies need to move very fast, deal with uncertainty, and respond to a rapidly changing landscape more than ever before.

Embracing these new approaches is crucial for keeping up to speed with today’s tech landscape:

Flat organizational structure

The traditional chain of command is too slow — by the time we get the approvals necessary we could have already tested our idea on real users and come back with meaningful insights.

Our products are continuously delivered as tiny bits of code into our customers hands. Professional teams should be authorized to deploy code independently, learn and improve, in order to move towards a common goal. There’s no time for a long list of approvals, it’s way too slow.

Radical transparency

CEO’s and entrepreneurs can no longer be regarded as the ones who know and decide everything. Today’s leaders understand the importance of relying on the variety of perspectives and skills of their teams in order to evolve and succeed.

This requires two things. First, we need to have the people inside the organization who have a voice and a grit to say “wait a minute, I think we should be doing it this way…”. People who are thinking of ways that their organization could get disrupted, before somebody else does.

If I were my competitor, how would I put myself out of business?

Second, managers must find the humility to deal with a direct, non hierarchical ecosystem. CEOs of the new breed must build organizations that empower employees to experiment, exchange knowledge and try things that might not work. Platforms are needed through which employees can provide candid feedback, and express their opinions safely.

Ray Dalio introduces in Principles, his new book, the concept of idea meritocracy — which encourages surfacing diverse ideas, and enables the best ones to win. He has implemented this approach to build Bridgewater to become the most successful hedge fund in the world.

Collaborative problem solving

As our industry moves from linear models to agile software deployment, we are forced to rethink the way we solve problems and take decisions. In the old model each department would be responsible to solve their own problem, and then pass on the project to the next department to deal with the next problems in line.

Today’s leaders must solve problems by involving multidisciplinary teams — product mangers, engineers, data scientists, and designers — to solve problems together in iterative cycles. When implemented effectively, collaborative problem solving can become a core mechanism by which people connect towards a common goal and foster a culture of innovation.

The future belongs to creators

There is less need for managers who instruct others what to do, and more need for great craftspeople, creators, and entrepreneurs — who can take an idea, make something real out of it, and inform the team of their findings.

The old game is not enough anymore. Whether you are a developer, marketer, product manager or designer, we need to be able to master our craft and bring our grit to the forefront. We must be ready to try new things and fail. This is what real artists do.


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