James Bradley, Director at The Churchill Group says applying an agile mind-set to tech can drive innovation and help achieve company objectives; from talent attraction and retention to the development of new ideas
As computer science has become increasingly sophisticated, technology has grown to fill roles that would have been impossible before. Once, technology was reactive. Now it is proactive, creating new approaches and opening up questions and ways of thinking that would not have been possible before.
But to fully incorporate such developments, individuals and organisations need to change the way they think. The turbulence of today’s political and economic landscape demands novelty and innovation in problem-solving and business growth. This demands that business leaders must also take a proactive and creative approach; technology is only as good as its design and implementation.
FROM EFFICIENCY TO AGILITY
The focus of reactive technology was to improve efficiency and for a long time, this has been the Holy Grail of organisational improvements. But as recent upheaval has demonstrated, agility and resilience are just as important as efficiency. Organisations tend to push for efficiency because it’s easy to measure and often boosts their bottom line in the short-term. However, a militant focus on efficiency can stunt creativity and capacity to break boundaries and solve problems. Innovation requires a change in mind-set.
The move from efficiency to agility epitomises this change. Creating more agile workplaces may lead to an immediate decrease in efficiency as employees change their approach and take time to reconsider their approach to work. The organisational output may take a slight hit. However, this new creativity gives teams time and capacity to investigate their work practices. This can lead to novel practices that improve the quality and efficiency of work in the long-term. Indeed, many of our successful client projects were created and driven by on-site teams, not the management in head office.
Using our tech and embracing our culture of innovation, our teams have the freedom to suggest solutions and new ideas, and drive projects from beginning to end. This is true agility.
USING AGILITY AND INNOVATION IN TECH
Moving to this growth and agility mindset can transform the way an organisation utilises technology and innovation and, in turn, spark new ideas and approaches. In the case of one of our clients, waste disposal was challenging as many smaller organisations relied on a single service. These users were charged at an arbitrary rate not representative of the waste they disposed. Using our digital platform, Mo:dus, we were able to accurately sort and record the waste and recyclables from the various organisations and cost accordingly. Using a centralised digital platform, we were able to better understand waste flows and assist the client in reducing them and to more accurately charge for the waste that did come to us. All of this was achieved at no extra time or expense for the client or end users.
Such a simple change not only allowed for a fairer and more efficient system, but also provided us with the information to educate users about their actions upstream to reduce waste in the first place. Information can be hugely powerful but only for those who know what questions to ask and how to use the data they collect.
This is where agility comes into the equation. Implementing technology and collecting data may not always offer exactly what you expect. Sometimes, patterns you hadn’t even considered arise. For example, you may see correlations between certain events and demand for additional cleaning, heating, or waste removal that you had not been aware of before. These patterns may even fluctuate over the course of a week, month, or year. Noticing and understanding these patterns allows your organisation to make changes to improve efficiency.
SUPPORT EMERGING INNOVATION
Technology can also facilitate emerging innovation. Bringing people together and encouraging collaboration is a key way to promote novel ideas. Technology can help to improve communication. Those accustomed to working from home may immediately think of one of the major video call platforms when talking about technology for communication.
There are voice and text-based platforms and visual online spaces designed for creative synchronous collaboration. The challenge can be knowing which media best suit your teams. Here, data can be used to quantify outcomes and analyse success and preferences across different platforms. So many organisations moved rapidly from in-person to online work and settled for the platform that most closely mimicked in-person meetings. Changing mindset means exploring and testing the different options and questioning whether even the fundamentals of collaboration can be improved upon.
A crucial aspect of embracing technology and continuous development is being able to question your assumptions. Just because a business has worked a certain way for years, doesn’t mean that is the best option. Technology allows us to stay curious and continually investigate, predict, and improve in a way that is quantifiable. Understanding this mindset can be transformative for any company.