How to overcome barriers to innovation in your IT organization

Fostering a culture of innovation in today’s hybrid and remote business environment takes strategy. Consider these expert tips to break down common barriers
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Even as companies adopt remote and hybrid work as the new normal, many are still struggling to adapt to the digital processes they now rely on to bring new products to the market.

One major challenge has been finding the right software tools to extract innovation from the organization’s knowledge workers. Another is identifying how to create a culture of innovation among colleagues using differing IP and physical addresses.

In June, a McKinsey & Company report revealed that culture and an employee experience of innovation correlate highly with an organization’s overall success at innovating. Finding processes and platforms that establish a digital culture and ensure a positive employee experience is essential to break down innovation barriers in distributed work.

Removing these barriers will improve innovation and help ensure that digital transformation is successful. Here are three tips for doing that.

1. Platform the workforce for innovation agility

Ensuring productivity in remote and hybrid settings requires structure. This structure is imperative within development teams as they look to bring innovative new ideas to market. The best way to get this structure to engineers is to give them a platform to work on it.

[ Also read 5 interview questions to detect an IT innovator. ]

Leading-edge IT and engineering teams increasingly rely on platform-as-a-service solutions to structure their asynchronous working setups. This approach ensures developers can focus on providing real customer value rather than building and configuring infrastructure. As a result, business agility increases through rapid development with faster and more frequent delivery of functionality. PaaS also offers access to tools, templates, and code libraries that can reduce development time and simplify processes.

2. Hack your way to an innovative culture

Without in-person connections, remote and hybrid teams must find alternate ways to share and build on new ideas. That can be difficult, especially when companies onboard employees virtually and employees are asked to share outside-the-box ideas with colleagues they’ve never met.

Digital organizations must continue to foster the idea that 'If you can think it, you can do it' to boost innovation.

I encourage teams to use hackathons. Hackathons enable programmers to engage in collaborative projects in a safe environment with no wrong answers or dumb ideas. Colleagues can step away from their day-to-day roles to contribute to open-sourced ideas and collaborate on new concepts or enhancements to existing products.

The innovative feedback these scenarios provide is far better than what you get in a typical work environment because the team is less inhibited with both the original ideas and the responses to thoughts. Digital organizations must continue to foster the idea that ‘If you can think it, you can do it’ to boost innovation.

3. Prioritize employee visibility

My organization’s recently published Reinventing Work Report found that many organizations need to engage more with their employees to ensure satisfied employees are poised to help them innovate. Sixty percent say they ‘regularly,’ ‘occasionally,’ or ‘always’ feel invisible to their colleagues on digital platforms despite their interactions and posts. When asked what improvements they would recommend to management, the top answer was that leaders need to show more empathy for employees. Another common answer was wanting to be asked for employee feedback on how work has changed post-COVID.

This shows that companies need to engage more with employees to understand how work has changed over the last two years and what employees need to be happier and more innovative. Put your workers in a position to succeed by letting them know that their opinion is valued and that their work has meaning.

Communication fatigue and sensory overload are real, and employers must respond with empathy and solutions. Doing so will not only provide support to employees who need it, but it will send a message to your workforce that you see and hear them.

Your digital workforce has the potential to be innovative. But if they feel like ghosts in your virtual innovation machine, they’ll never provide the game-changing ideas you need to move the organization forward.

[ Don’t try to recreate what was normal before the pandemic. Learn from leading CIOs in a new report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation. ]

Jon Mort is CTO at Adaptavist. He is a customer champion, ingenious engineer, and digital evangelist. His passion lies in using technology to transform human interactions, not replace them. He elevates the voice of our customers and employees to deliver the best tech experience possible.