Career Learning #2: Innovation

For the last 17 years, I’ve enjoyed being part of an organization where the only constant is change. While I have seen many struggle, quit or resist change – I’ve learnt that the only way to thrive in such environment is to be the agent of change, create the conditions, drive the agenda … ultimately have the environment change to suit you! It’s the only way I’ve to fully “fit” in a situation, while I can adapt a lot … I’d rather change the environment to make sure I’m performing my best.

Here is where innovation come from , I tend to be lazy … can’t stand waste and repetition … so I have to figure out how to make sure my day is always rich in new and different things.

It just happen, that by spending so much on bring novelty in one’s day – especially when driven by “the only boss” request – you tend to make the organization fit for future. Being it adopting new communication tool, or pushing to be first in a new market, or simply seat in a different place in a room you are having multi-day meeting … to change perspective, try a new challenge and push yourself in an “uncomfortable” position will always result in learning and self-betterment.

So, how do you foster your team passion for innovation? Here 3 simple steps anyone can adopt:

1/  Have lunch with a team member from another department

                It’s incredible how in medium/large companies, each department develop a unique culture, adopt different tools, play to alternative priorities. As you spend time with your colleague, share a challenge you are facing, ask how would they solve it in their area … you’ll be amazed , I’ve discovered so many new tools, alternative way of doing things, or simply got that information so much faster by taking the “different” way …

2/ Steal and borrow from another industry or discipline

                IT is a very recent branch of human development, we think we face first-of-its-kind problem … but really we just are the first with our mindset and tool to face them … others have solved beforehand … just in another context. Nearly 20 years ago, I was having my military service year (used to be mandatory in Italy then) … and I can tell you, I still go back to army books to learn how to manage a corporate problem. It’s amazing, but not surprising, to see how organizational and rational problem solving is mostly available for free in military strategy text book … some very old but still true ! The best one : UNODIR, or how to make your team self-sufficient.

3/ Have regular conversations with like-minded peers … in another industry

                At times, it’s important to have a circle of mentors/friends you can share your ideas and thoughts in full openness. Within a company this is a rare occurrence, there is always an element of organizational awareness standing-by. I’ve been lucky to have acquired such a cohort during the HEC Executive MBA I’ve been part of … but since I’ve joined industry groups, local associations where I could have as well built similar relationships. Why is that important? Well, similar to point 2 , to innovate is not about inventing but rather about bringing positive change that matters to context – who cares that you cannot patent it.

So , here you go – learning #2 : Innovate or die – business, relationship, communication, everything changes at ever growing pace … be actor of change, and not victim of it : it’s your call.