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2021 Major Tip: Innovate or Die

It's been a year since the world first heard about the coronavirus. Back then, we were all under the illusion that the virus would stop at its place of origin, or possibly spread all over Asia only. With the first global lockdown, only a few governments said that the pandemic would not go away so easily. But we still hoped that everything would return to normal in the summer at the latest. However, a year on, a hard lockdown continues in many countries, and the rest of the world has various restrictions. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK lockdown will last at least until March 8. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced in early January that if necessary, the lockdown in Germany would last until Easter or even longer.

 

2021 won’t be that cool as we thought

While lockdown is meant to keep us safe and healthy, it doesn’t save the world economy. Initially, it was believed that the crisis would be at worst, the size of 2008, but there are indications that it could be like the one from a hundred years ago. Will it be so? What is certain, is that in today's highly interconnected world, the crisis affects everyone in the world.

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Currently, we have no clue, on a global scale, how much the crisis will affect those industries that are targets for Atlassian solutions and its partners and vendors. Without too much detailed market knowledge we are able to predict that, for example, financial institutions will suffer, because the loan market (especially mortgage loans) may significantly shrink due to the loss of financial liquidity of loan takers. We can guess that the media & communications industry may lose advertising contracts and have cut-down budgets for PR campaigns, and thus will be forced to cut costs, reduce jobs, etc. However, we do not know how it will ultimately affect the software industry. It depends on many factors, e.g. the type of software and for whom it is developed. The industry itself seems to be crisis-proof. Apps for ordering food from restaurants like Uber Eats are experiencing the biggest increases in history, on the other hand, apps for booking rooms in hotels or flight tickets are starving.

So are we supposed to sit by and just watch the world burn? Although there will certainly be some who will enjoy watching the world in chaos, but a responsible entrepreneur doesn’t remain passive. What we can do is "arm" our businesses for a possible recession, reduced revenues and purchasing power, interrupted supply chains, lockdowns of individual industries, customer bankruptcies, etc.

 

Drive innovation

One way of dealing with a crisis is to run forward. A wise entrepreneur is getting ready for a crisis even before it touches his business. Unfortunately, a large number of companies are still sleeping through this moment and problems are starting to grow at an exponential rate, while employees suffer first. Innovation is the foundation of economic growth and in times of recession, being innovative allows you to dig out of it. As the definition says:

Innovation (Latin: innovatio, meaning: renewal) is a sequence of activities leading to the creation of new or improved products, technological processes or organizational systems.

Therefore, an innovative company is one that knows how to adapt itself in an ever changing world. It is able to produce, absorb and sell new products or services. As it’s commonly known, start-ups react very quickly to any changes, operating agile, use lean startup methodologies or design thinking. Do corporations think innovatively? Large companies spend much more on research and innovation teams than SMEs, but their own innertia can be their downfall. A great example is provided by Gary Pisano, professor of business administration at Harvard* : Blockbuster, which was a tycoon in the video rental market, was completely replaced by online streaming. Meanwhile, Netflix, which hails from the same industry (sent videos by traditional mail in a red envelope) has switched to VOD and has become a key player in this market as it proposed a completely new business model. Blockbuster, due to the lack of innovative thinking, could not adapt to the new reality and perished.

*) https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/how-big-companies-can-innovate-like-small-startups/

 

Everyone counts

How many people work in your organization? Well, there you have exactly the same number of ideas for improving the company. According to CultureAmp*, employee engagement is strongly correlated with innovation behavior, in companies of all sizes. The portal, by analyzing which aspect of engagement is most related to innovation, showed it’s motivation. We can see that the willingness of employees to do more, i.e. performing beyond role expectations, is very strongly related to innovation. The same portal cites the work of the International Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, C. Brooke Dobni, which showed**  "a clear link between innovation and strategy" and that managers can influence their innovation culture. To do this, Dobni concluded that " there has to be an emphasis on the employee”.

 

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What does this mean for you and your organization? In short, the more team engagement, the more innovation. Each employee can become a source of innovation. If management lets  employees to express ideas, a culture of innovation is built. As a result, team morale is increased, especially in the times of crisis.

 

*)https://www.cultureamp.com/blog/engagement-and-innovation/

**)https://www.business-and-management.org/library/2010/5_1--48-58-Dobni.pdf

 

Idea management tamed

To build a culture of innovation in the team, you must aim to aggregate all the ideas and evaluate them effectively. If you perform brainstorming sessions in a conference room, you probably write them on the whiteboard, flipchart etc. But hey, we have a pandemic, and we all work remotely! While Jira and Confluence are great for improving productivity of remote teams, platforms where you can submit your ideas and evaluate them are still in demand. So far, there have been such, but only from outside the Atlassian ecosystem.

We are an IT company and we operate agile. Apart from the plugins development for Atlassian products, we do loads of projects that require continuous innovation from us. We needed a simple tool that would be a sort of backlog for ideas that we can evaluate ourselves within the team and select those that will go to the implementation phase. We didn’t want to go beyond the Atlassian ecosystem, which we use ourselves, so we created a user-friendly tool for Jira and for our own needs that helps us manage ideas. It turned out so easy to use that it is also successfully used by people in the office who don’t have any contact with Jira or Confluence on a regular basis. That’s how our app Idea Hub was brought to life.

 

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Should idea management be implemented in every company? I think yes. Wise idea management leads to their implementation and transformation into a ready product or service. This is the essence of innovation, development and a way to survive the crisis.

How do you approach innovation in your organizations? Please tell us in the comments how you manage your ideas and how you get engaged in co-creating innovations.

 

1 comment

John Funk Community Leader Feb 04, 2021

Good article. Thanks!

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