Keeping innovation alive during fast growth

plexus leadershipLeadership Development, Organizational Change & Culture

Successful start-ups and early scale-up Tech companies are usually vibrant places, filled with energy, ideas and purposeful action. This is because they are typically light on process and hierarchy meaning employees can share their ideas and views freely with senior management and decisions can be taken quickly about how to implement the best ideas. However, as companies scale and employee numbers increase, many run headlong into common challenges: communication and decision-making become more time-consuming and complex, processes become more rigid and restrictive and unhealthy conflict grows between increasingly siloed and specialised teams.
So how can Tech companies ensure they maintain high levels of innovation and vitality as they grow and scale?

Hire creative, original thinkers

Innovation requires talented people that can think outside the box and are not afraid to express original and diverse perspectives. This means that any attempt to build an innovative culture needs to start by ensuring the attraction and hiring process is designed to spot the types of employees who are original thinkers, creatives and positive disruptors. As the company scales, it is particularly important to ensure hiring managers are trained to avoid hiring in their own image and look beyond narrow or biased person specifications, as these typically undermine diversity, originality and creativity.

Empower people

Empower employees to make bold decisions and take calculated risks, as this will encourage innovation, experimentation and accountability. Rather than micromanaging people and building rigid command and control structures, ensure great managers are hired and trained to support, coach and challenge people constructively, enabling them to improve their self-awareness, creativity and learning agility.

Build a culture that values openness

Most companies that are highly innovative like IDEO, Google and Facebook ensure their employees have access to as much information about the company, its goals and major projects as possible. They also encourage a high level of involvement in projects through team collaboration platforms and secure extranets. Hackathons, forums and agile project management techniques encourage people to get involved and make them feel empowered for finding solutions to even the most complex challenges.

Show appreciation

Most people have a strong desire to be valued and appreciated, however, this is often overlooked in the way people are managed. When people feel valued, they are more willing to speak up and share their ideas openly with co-workers, including their manager. Managers can show they appreciate their people in various ways, including regularly reminding individuals about how essential they are to helping achieve the team’s goals. They can also use a wide range of low and no-cost ways of recognizing great ideas and achievements such as giving time off, highlighting outstanding work during team meetings, awarding dinner or gift vouchers or simply saying a heartfelt “thank you”.

Keep an eye on what’s happening elsewhere

Too many companies don’t scan the market sufficiently well and get bypassed by rivals or new, disruptive market entrants. Innovation involves keeping an eye on the outside world and drawing inspiration and ideas from multiple sources, including social media, conferences and networking, job candidates, competitors, customers, suppliers and even companies in totally unrelated sectors.

Implementing these 5 steps will ensure your employees are empowered, inspired and supported to achieve high levels of innovation and productivity that are necessary to fuel the ongoing growth and success of your business.

About the Author

James Brook
Founder and MD | Leadership Consultant | Organizational Psychologist

James is a leadership consultant, organizational psychologist and executive coach. He has over 25 years’ experience working with leaders, teams and organizations globally to optimize their performance, talent and future success. He specializes in positive leadership, thriving workplaces, collaboration and influencing, organizational change and transformation, accelerating innovation and coaching executives and leaders in innovative sectors including Tech, Digital, E-commerce and Life Sciences.

Before setting up Plexus Leadership, James held leadership roles in HR and Talent Management in the UK and abroad with companies such as NatWest, Yahoo! and Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals. After this, he founded and led several talent and leadership consulting and assessment businesses, including Strengthscope®, an online strengths assessment and development business serving a wide range of UK and global clients. James grew this venture into a global market leader before selling the business in 2018.

James has supported, advised and coached leaders and teams globally across diverse industries and geographies. Clients he has worked with include Allen & Overy, Commvault, Equinor, Facebook, GSK, Hilton, John Lewis, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, NHS, Oracle, Sainsbury’s, Swiss Re, Tesco, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, WSP and Yahoo!.

James has a Master’s in Organizational Psychology, an MBA, an Advanced Diploma in Executive Coaching and a Harvard Business qualification in Sustainable Business Strategy. He is a member of the Institute of Directors, the Association of Business Psychologists and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD). He is currently undertaking a PhD in Organizational Psychology examining the start-up experiences of Tech and Digital entrepreneurs.

James is a regular contributor and speaker on leadership, coaching, innovative talent management and the future of work. His most recent book, Optimize Your Strengths, explores how leaders can create thriving workplaces by inspiring and supporting people to optimize their potential and teamwork to deliver breakthrough results.

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