New Study: Make IT Your Ally in Innovation

Aug 3, 2017
6 Min Read
Make IT Your Ally in Innovation

Make IT Your Ally in Innovation


A new IDEO study found that one commonality of innovative companies is comfort in challenging the status quo. 


Global design firm IDEO is known for its innovation. In fact, many clients approach the firm specifically because they want to learn its secrets. In a research initiative meant to get at the heart at what makes innovative companies tick, IDEO studied its 26-year archive of projects that focused on clients’ internal team dynamics, as well as external sources focused on innovation (including Fast Company‘s annual Most Innovative Companies lists).

One major theme emerging from the research? Many business leaders, including those in IT, hold back permission to innovate. Scared off by potential security breaches through the cloud and employees going rogue with unauthorized software solutions, IT often serves as a bottleneck in the implementation of cutting edge technology. But, as the data clearly showed, the workers closest to the organization’s most pressing business challenges are the ones who play the most critical roles in leveraging innovation to solve them.

At FastCoDesign, Katharine Schwab reported the main recommendations gleaned from IDEO’s data. Let’s highlight those, along with some ideas for encouraging IT to greenlight your initiatives.


Keep lots of options open

The IDEO research indicated that when teams iterate on five or more different solutions, they are 50 percent more likely to launch successfully. This is contrary to the traditional viewpoint that you should pilot and invest heavily in only one idea at a time. Staying flexible as to where the project might go also allows you to iterate alongside IT and accept that team’s suggestions for how to best move forward.


Challenge existing processes

IDEO found that when the majority of team members said that they felt comfortable challenging the status quo and acting with autonomy, the chances of a failed launch decreased by nearly 17 percent. Talk to your IT group about how you can experiment in a safe way that doesn’t result in any unnecessary risks to the organization or its technology infrastructure. Share best practices and seek IT’s partnership in the realm of process improvement.


Outline a clear purpose

IDEO’s data illustrated that having a cohesive purpose with consistent underlying priorities is important for businesses that need to adapt quickly and successfully. In fact, project succeed 20 percent more often when leaders articulate the company’s mission clearly and then reliably practice what they preach. When approaching IT, don’t advocate change for the sake of it. Refer to the mission, vision, and values being communicated from the top down, and tie your proposed technology and citizen development initiatives directly to them.


Assuage concerns about remote workers

According to the IDEO data, the most innovative companies surveyed have between 25 to 57 percent of their employees working remotely. Teams with remote workers are 22 percent more successful in their initiatives compared to counterparts that are comprised of less than 15 percent remote collaborators. But naturally, IT may be more comfortable implementing new technology in-house, where the department has more control. Assure your IT partners that your remote team members will adhere to the necessary security and risk protocols.


Communicate early and often

Teams that work together seamlessly across business functions daily, compared to those that only update on a weekly or monthly basis, have 28 percent fewer failed launches and are 21 percent more likely to be successful overall. Put a process in place to ensure that you are in almost constant contact with your friends in IT. They will be more likely to trust you, give you more freedom, and embrace disruption if they’re confident they’ll have the ability to catch any problems or dangers before they escalate.


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