How to Stay Innovative While Growing Your Team

by Charlotte Ritter

How to Stay Innovative While Growing Your TeamMaximize Innovation while Growing Your Team

Innovators, by definition, are unconventional. Apple, Amazon, GE – they’re all famously innovative companies with dynamic, high producing teams uninhibited by traditional business practices. Startups everywhere are pining for these qualities in their own ventures as they tirelessly push envelopes and abolish thinking within the box. Unfortunately, fostering an innovative environment with only a dozen employees working closely together is a lot easier than doing so in a large corporation. Successful entrepreneurs are setting themselves up for failure when they ignore the fact that scaling their small business will necessarily require additional structure.

Beware of the Entrepreneurial Peter Pan Complex.

The entrepreneur version of a Peter Pan complex is a team that wants to be successful, but never wants to grow up. Startups are addictive. Only 18 percent of entrepreneurs find success on their first attempt, and only a slightly higher 20 percent are successful on their second attempt. Statistically, most entrepreneurs spend more time in a startup environment than in a large-scale business. When a founder does hit upon a successful idea, it’s both essential and difficult to break out of the lean, startup mindset they’ve grown accustomed to. Many fear that they’re company will lose it’s innovative, disruptive presence if they add formal processes such as employee reviews or detailed HR guidelines. However, it’s possible to both grow and retain an innovative edge.

Strive for Elastic Innovation.

Creating a fluid core is the new standard for businesses that hope to be competitive in future markets. The idea is to indicate a range of competencies that let you respond quickly to new opportunities and threats. There is no more “thinking outside of the box” because core-competencies are no longer defined within set parameters. Successful innovators now think of their businesses as a fluid form within which their core focus is constantly being challenged and evolving. Those that are able to manage, and even create, demand will come out on top.

Radical adjacency, a term used to describe a company’s ability to step outside of its core competency or core markets in an effort to innovate or expand, has become a key factor in assessing an organization’s ability to successfully manage change. Leadership must be willing to embrace this trend in order to pursue competitive strategies in future markets.

Evaluate your current and future Business Technology needs.

Being realistic about the needs of a growing company is recognizing that what worked for a small team isn’t necessarily going to work for a larger company. Reassess your business technology needs. Is your Business Intelligence (BI) software specific to a small business or will it be able to fit your future needs? How will you manage Mobile Device Management (MDM) or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) practices now that the team is not as close-knit?

Make it easy for your team to get the technology they need to operate outside of their comfort zones. Rapid changes in enterprise architecture mean that decisions regarding business technology purchases are becoming increasingly difficult.

It only takes one nightmarish software implementation to dissuade your team from pitching innovative ideas that aren’t already within their technological reach. A continued focus, and open dialogue regarding business technology is a worthy investment throughout every stage of organizational growth.

Become a hybrid manager.

Leadership must be committed to revaluating how the organization will pursue success in the future. How you allocate funds and make hiring decisions can become impulsive decisions in a dynamic company. As companies scale they tend to focus on product while relying on their original team to keep the company culture in check. Big mistake.

In order to nurture a fluid core environment, managers should focus on creating a corporate ecosystem, as opposed to a corporate ladder. Assess not only skills, but attitude as well. Think of your team as a partnership, rather than a dictatorship, where employees are expected to recognize opportunities and manage unexpected circumstances, as well as complete their typical duties. Investing in your team and empowering their decision-making abilities, is one of the most challenging and most rewarding steps in creating an innovative environment.

Innovative organizations don’t just expect the unexpected, they create the unexpected. What are your thoughts on innovation in a growing company? What methods have worked, or not worked, in your experience? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Charlotte RitterCharlotte Ritter is a technology analyst for TechnologyAdvice. She covers business intelligence, gamification, project management, and other emerging technology. She has also written about startups, company growth, and talent management. Connect with her on LinkedIn.