While ongoing innovation is the cornerstone of a company’s success and sustainability, sometimes the process of inspiring innovation on a continuous basis can be a challenge. Great ideas and technology build great companies, but how can you create an environment that truly fosters creativity over the long term? Many high-profile companies have actually documented their philosophies on the requirements for inspiring innovation. Google, for example, has published its “9 Principles of Innovation.”
As a recognized innovator in cloud corporate performance management (CPM) software, Adaptive Insights also believes in creating an environment that fosters innovation. To that end, the company recently hosted our first official “Innovation Week” that resulted in some breakthrough solutions. How did we inspire the bright minds housed under our roof? What contributed to the success of this event? We followed three key guiding tenets: commitment, collaboration, and competition.
The Adaptive Insights Innovation Week gathered engineers from a variety of disciplines throughout the company including QA, engineering support, hosting operations, and product management, and enabled them to dedicate a full work week to the art and science of experimentation. Participants were given the option of choosing from a list of proposed projects or proposing their own. They then collaborated as teams, formulated solutions, and worked together to present their findings.
The activities culminated in a four-hour event likened to a “science fair for adults,” where the results of about 30 unique and innovative projects were presented. Projects were judged by representatives from four key functions within the company, including sales, product management, services, and core development, and eight winning projects were chosen—some of which will play a central role in carrying forward the finance revolution we started back in 2003. Why did this format work? We think it comes down to what we call the three C’s of innovation.
The first factor in successfully inspiring innovation has to be a commitment on the part of the employer to make innovation a priority for the organization. That translates into dedicating time during the regular work week to focus exclusively on experimentation. While some companies think a hack day is the answer, Adaptive Insights believes that 24 straight hours of coding bliss may not be everybody’s idea of a good time and can result in less innovation overall—as the loss of sleep and family time could actually backfire in the innovation process. Giving engineers the opportunity to experiment and “investigate the new” during the regular work week, while having the freedom to put regular day-to-day responsibilities on the back burner, creates the interruption-free environment needed to form the high-energy atmosphere that results in true innovation.
In addition to commitment, however, most innovation also requires collaboration. Being part of a team can be highly motivational and inspirational. Ideas and people feed off of one another, and many viewpoints and angles can be represented and explored. With representation from many different engineering groups and evaluation of projects by individuals outside of engineering, our Innovation Week took a holistic, collaborative approach to the process of innovation. We took into account the many perspectives that exist among a user base—including both internal and external audiences. The needs of the sales organization can be very different from those of the services organization or our finance-oriented customers. The most impactful solutions reflect input from all facets of an organization. Moreover, the ability to present ideas over a four-hour period means those ideas can be explored and demonstrated in-depth.
Beyond commitment and collaboration, however, we also lit the fire with a little healthy competition. Who doesn’t love to show off or claim bragging rights once in a while? The science fair format works well in creating an inventive spirit and helping others in the company visualize the achievement. Though usually a modest group, sometimes engineers want to be able to say, “Look what I did,” or “Look what this can do for you!”
In that spirit, Adaptive Insights can’t wait to pull back the curtain on some of the exciting developments that resulted from our Innovation Week and show off some of the cool innovations our teams can build. As important, based on the success of our inaugural event, this looks to be the first of many innovation events to come for Adaptive Insights.