Tag: innovate

There’s Nothing Wrong With Failing

Fail!

Failure to Communicate

So this post will be pretty short, but I wanted to quickly touch on a workplace experience that happened the other day. I was approached by a colleague (who’s perspective I really value) about the way some of us on the team were discussing a series of events. This individual was really concerned that we kept calling it a failure, and in this person’s mind, we hadn’t truly failed at anything. We had done an experiment in terms of tackling a development problem and the team had reached a critical mass where we declared “enough is enough, this is a failure”. I became concerned because I wanted to make sure this person and I were on the same page.

I couldn’t totally wrap my ahead around why this person was so concerned about calling it a failure. In my opinion, all the evidence was there to call it a failure! But I guess that was just a failure on my part to communicate properly. I think that there was a work culture gap where this person was viewing our declaration of a failure as something really negative, whereas a lot of us were really just marking it as a point of realization to not continue along with something. All of the reasons this person offered up for why our experiment was not a failure were true. We hadn’t missed a deadline to ship and we had a plan for how to work around it. That sounds like success, right?

I guess the communication breakdown was really this: There’s nothing wrong with failing. We tried something and we’ve identified that it’s not working. That’s a failure. What makes us successful? Being able to identify our failures, learn from them, and improve going forward. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Acknowledging a failure and planning how we can be better next time around.

So with that said… You should be failing when you push the boundaries. Just make sure you learn from your failures.


Innovation: Weekly Article Dump

Innovation: Weekly Article Dump (Image by http://www.sxc.hu/)

Innovation and You

There’s no denying innovation is important. You often see startups oozing with innovation completely disrupt a market and consequently, there are tons of people out there with dreams to do the same thing. How do you jack up the innovation level in your company? Why is it that startups seem to be so much better at innovating even though multi-million dollar companies have the people and financial resources to throw at R&D? Why do big companies suck at innovating?

The answer starts with your employees. Empowering your employees to innovate and embedding innovation in the work culture is key to ensuring your company continues to innovate. With big companies, the focus moves from innovation to profit maximization. Over time though, some small team of highly innovative individuals are going to find a way to do it differently or do it better, and the big players will take a hit.

Where does your company sit in the world of innovation? Does innovation come from a select few individuals?

Articles

  • Driving Innovation: This article is all about how to truly drive innovation in your company: It doesn’t come from one person, but rather many people. Arne Sorenson shares five tips for trying to drive innovation among his team members. Coincidentally, my colleague Tayfun actually wrote an innovation piece on a similar topic earlier this week.
  • Are Headphones the New Cubicle?: I thought this post by Richard Moran was pretty interesting and at least worst asking yourself the question (even if you don’t feel like reading the article). Open offices are seemingly the new way to go, but are the benefits of open offices reduced by everyone strapping headphones on? I’m personally a big fan of having an open concept office, but I do think that open communication factor is significantly hurt by having headphones on all day.
  • How to Spot a Great Leader in Four Easy Steps: James Caan says that great leaders are defined by four major things: confidence, intuition, decisiveness, and empathy. I have to agree. People need a leader they can get behind and trust to make good decisions. That leader needs to show confidence when they are making their decisions to really show that they aren’t blindly leading people down path X. However, the empathy part goes really far. After all, you’re dealing with real live people, not machines.
  • Intrapreneurship – Guest Blog by Tayfun Uzun: I’ve already briefly mentioned it here in this post, but my colleague Tayfun from Magnet Forensics wrote his perspective on intrapreneurship and how it drives innovation. It’s all about empowering each individual in the company to be innovative in their own right, and in return, the company itself experiences a boost in innovation. Check it out!
  • University of Waterloo Grad’s Journey To Becoming A Software Engineer: Here’s the part where I toot my own horn a bit. A friend of mine, Meghan Greaves, did a mini-interview with me for a TalentEgg article. It’s about how and when I knew what I wanted to do when I “grew up”, what university in Waterloo was like for me, and my transition into a development leadership role at Magnet Forensics. It was really flattering to have Meghan put this together, so please check it out and give her a shout out on twitter!
  • New Generation of Business: Connecting Employee Loyalty with Customer Loyalty: In this post by Colin Shaw, he dives into the concept of employee ambassadors and how you can build a better business by marrying employee and customer loyalty. Keeping employees engaged through your employee ambassadors will help keep the rest of your employees engaged and believing in the company’s mission.
  • Just Do it – Right from the Start!: Michael Skok provides a high-level walkthrough for startup success. The first thing? The right people. A successful company absolutely requires the right people and that’s where it starts. Keeping a solid workplace culture and empowering your employees are two fundamental things to do as you bring the right people on board. Great article!
  • Look for Advisors Who Can Teach, Not Tell: Hunter Walk shares some advice that certainly makes sense for advisory boards, but I wouldn’t limit it to just that. The idea of being able to teach and not just tell is a parallel to great leadership. Telling people what to do is not as effective as telling people what the goal is and empowering them to get there. It’s much easier to learn and grow if you’re given guidelines but you get to hold the reins.
  • Using Humor in Business: Some Practical AdviceColin Shaw is up again this week with an article on humour in business. I think it’s pretty common that when people think of big corporations they have this vision of straight-faced people in suits carrying brief cases… but is that always the reality? Should it be the reality? Colin talks about how you can leverage humour in the workplace for things such as improving relationships or making ideas more memorable. There’s certainly a balance, but I think Colin doe sa great job explaining it.
  • The # 1 Job of a Leader Is …: If you have grammar OCD then skip to the next link right now. Fair warning! Tom Hood says that to be a true leader, you need to be doing “more better”. What does it mean? It’s simple… do better, only more! Okay, maybe it still sounds kind of strange, but the idea still applies. In order to be a real leader in your domain, you have to keep doing better. You need to innovate, push boundaries, and keep doing things better. Do better than your competitors, and do better than you did in the past.
  • 5 Lessons On How to Build High Impact Teams: Jake Wood talks about what it takes to make a high impact team. What are some of the ingredients? First, you need to know your role and how you fit in with your team. You need to embrace innovation and change. And of course, one of my favourites, “Passion trumps talent, but culture is king”.
  • Why Your Software Development Process Is Broken: In this article by Joe Emison, discusses where control in software products lies and how shifting it between developers and high-level managers can have different effects. On one hand, developers with too much control start to stick in all the fancy new technology because developers love new shiny things, and on the other hand high-level managers create a one-way flow of direction down to developers. His solution is to have a benevolent dictator that lies somewhere in the middle.

Empower your team to innovate and watch your company’s innovation as a whole increase. Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week!

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Intrapreneurship – Guest Blog by Tayfun Uzun

Intrapreneurship - Guest Blog by Tayfun Uzun (Photo by www.sxc.hu)

Last week I mentioned a colleague of mine, Tayfun Uzun, had a little surprise. He’s put together a great write up on intrapreneurship and what it means to be an intrapreneur.

The importance of Intrapreneurship

Innovation is the life-blood of any organization; we have all heard it and one way or another understand it. Actually, let me rephrase that. Revenue is the life-blood of any organization, but innovation begets revenue. One big movement in large companies is the idea of intraprenuership, the act of behaving like an entrepreneur within an established organization. Intrapreneurship is baked into your culture–it starts from your first hires in a start-up and needs to persist as you grow. It is not something that you can take a two day course and learn, much like entrepreneurship.

Why do you need intrapreneurship? Well, innovation is what sells. Companies have come and gone because they were stuck in the status quo, not innovating and thus becoming stale. The status quo is boring and demotivating. While these companies make great case studies, they do little to motivate the people involved. Intrapreneurship instills the drive, creativity and urgency into your employees. You can either have one person be an innovator or you can make the entire organization live and breathe innovation.

So, how do you foster an environment where your employees can feel comfortable being intrapreneurs? There are a few things I have found effective to get people out of their shell and try different things.

Be Agile

Following the agile model of iterative product development allows you to be able to test your innovations more frequently and get feedback quickly. This is a key component to intraprenuership. The waterfall methodology doesn’t allow time to tweak ideas and prototypes often resulting on those projects being scrapped for high priority planned projects. With agile you can time-box your innovation, forcing the intraprenuers to feel the same pressure an entrepreneur would feel when building products. A good way to do this is having regularly scheduled hack-a-thons where employees can work on their own innovations for a set period of time.

Encourage and Lead by Example

If you are the founder this one is easier than you think. As a leader, people look up to you and imitate you. As the founder, it is not uncommon for your employees to want to be entrepreneurial like you. Just listen to their ideas. No. Actually listen. I get it–you are the visionary, the entrepreneur–but there is value in hearing and seeing the prototypes being developed by intrapreneurs. Imagine injecting your entrepreneurial spirit into each one of your employees, because that is what you are doing by listening and providing them the platform to innovate.

By providing the means for your employees to become intrapreneurs, you are indirectly improving their day-to-day planned work. It allows them to view what they may consider mundane tasks in a different light and become solution-based thinkers. I often think of innovation as a prize–I am glad to do the grunt work as long as I get to innovate frequently–and in turn this affects how motivated I am as an employee.

Don’t Bet The Farm

If you are gaining traction, don’t pivot. Slowly start empowering the intrapreneurs to be product visionaries too. A good rule, (over)used in agile, is the 80/20 rule. In your next project, try to have 20% innovation driven by the intrapreneurs in your organization, while 80% are planned features. A good way to do this is to take out one or two features that you have planned for a sprint/release, and let the intrapreneurs research and build something. This is a good way to foster creative thinking and innovation with little risk.

Tayfun Uzun was one of the first software engineers at Magnet Forensics and currently is the Product Development Manager, responsible for the Software Engineering team.


Weekly Article Dump

Here’s the collection of articles I’ve shared on social media outlets over the past week:

  • Why Innovation Is So Hard: A few good points on why innovating sometimes feels like it’s a difficult thing to do and what you can do to improve!
  • Present Slides, Distribute Documents: Do your meetings sometimes feel like someone is just reading you a slide show? You can read a slide show yourself, can’t you? Why not distribute the slide show ahead of time?!
  • How to Evaluate Personal Characteristics When Hiring: Being a good fit is incredibly important when hiring someone. How can you improve gauging how good of a fit someone will be with your work culture? This article gives you a few strategies.
  • Look Out! When the Visible Becomes Invisible: Invisible work “clutter” can be holding your efficiency back at work. Check out this article for why ignoring things at work and letting them build up can get dangerous… and of course, how to avoid it 🙂
  • The Single Most Essential Building Block of Success: This article talks discusses how your mindset and perspective on challenges can gear you toward success. Complete with 10 tips for becoming more resilient!
  • Having a Really Lousy Day? Some Ways to Feel Better: We all have bad days. This article has some great practical tips (13 of them!) for you to improve your day. My favourite is number 2: do something nice for someone else. Definitely a great way to make your day better.
  • Are You a Workaholic or an Outlier?: This article discusses what being a workaholic means and the differences between when it may be a good thing versus a bad thing. The real takeaway point is to remember to do what you love.
  • 29 Reasons to Start a Bog Today: Ever considered starting a blog? For me, it kind of happened over night… but I’m betting there are lots of people at least on the fence about it. Why not give it a shot? Check out this article and you might get that little nudge you need to take the plunge!
  • Why I Wake Up Early and 3 Reasons You Should Too: In this article, Julia Boorstin touches on 3 reasons why she’s a morning person. For some people, it’s a matter of playing catch-up with the other side of the world but for others, it’s just a way to become more productive.
  • 5 Ways To Lead No Matter Your Title: Some of the best leaders at a company are home-grown and not brought in from somewhere else just because they were good leaders. In this article, Angie Hicks talks about 5 different ways you can put leadership skills into play even if you don’t have “Leader” in your job title.
  • So You Want To Pick Someone’s Brain? Do It Right: Sometimes I think this kind of stuff is common sense, but I’m definitely being proven wrong on this one! In this article, Linda Coles talks about a handful of things to consider when reaching out to someone to ask them for their opinion on something. Think about it… Why would you do it differently than if you had the opportunity to do it in person?!
  • Be SMARTe: How to Clarify Confusion:  This article focuses on hiring and resumes, but I think the concept applies in the more general sense. Lou Adler puts it well right at the beginning, “if you can’t describe exactly what you want, don’t be surprised if you don’t get it”. Using a simple set of guidelines, you can formulate what you’re looking for in a clear and concise manner that helps reduce assumptions and confusion.
  • To Become An Expert, Do This One Thing: In this article, Whitney Johnson makes a great point: you need to leave your ego at the door if you want to build up your skill set in an area where you’re a beginner. Just because you might be accomplished at some things, you need to get into the beginner mindset.
  • Are You Grounded in Trust?: Stan McChrystal writes about a parallel to trust in your business and team. Trust is incredibly important, especially in small businesses, because it let’s people focus on what they are experts at. In order to keep your team operating efficiently, everyone should feel like they can trust the other team members.
  • How to Focus Innovation: This article identifies the 6 ‘W’s that you need to answer when considering innovation. Gijs van Wulfen describes these steps as the necessary formula for innovation. He then outlines a group of questions that you should ask about your innovation in terms of it’s placement in the market. Certainly a lot of things to consider, but they all seem worthwhile.
  • The Joys Of Screwing Up: Being fearless is neccessary for innovation according to Jeff DeGraff. When we become afraid of taking risks and pushing the boundaries, innovation stagnates. How can you innovate if you’re never willing to take risks?
  • 7 Tips for Surviving Life As a Middle Manager: Nothing I would consider ground breaking here, but Dennis Berman has done an awesome job of summarizing a lot of excellent middle management tips. You may have read about some of these in some of the articles I’ve shared, but it’s certainly a great list to refer to!

Hope you enjoyed! Remember to follow on popular social media outlets to get these updates through the week!

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  • Nick Cosentino

    Nick Cosentino

    I work as a team lead of software engineering at Magnet Forensics (http://www.magnetforensics.com). I'm into powerlifting, bodybuilding, and blogging about leadership/development topics over at http://www.devleader.ca.

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