Geoff Wilson / Digital Strategy / April 28th, 2016

Breaking Down Barriers to Enterprise Innovation

Last month, we co-sponsored Atlanta’s first Enterprise Entrepreneurship Series with Tech Square Labs. The event, focused on helping organizations overcome obstacles to innovation. From our post-event poll, we discovered an alarming statistic from Atlanta’s innovation leaders:

64% of attendees said the largest barriers to innovation were organizational red tape or cultural limitations.

Three years ago, I probably would have said the same about 352. We were stuck in an outdated, waterfall development model. We were producing good work, but I could tell clients and our employees all wanted more. More speed to market, more ability to find the right solution, more freedom to pursue the risky ideas that came up every day.

geoff at ees atlanta

Like many innovation-minded companies, our culture and processes held us back from finding more. The changes we made required patience, flexibility and perseverance. The next EES event will feature some insights from Atlanta leaders who have successfully introduced a culture of innovation, but here are a few things corporate leaders can do to break down the barriers to innovation and drive change within your business.

Get Out of the Way

Your employees need an environment that accepts – and even encourages – risky ideas. For us, the switch to cross-functional, agile teams revolutionized the way our designers, developers and strategists worked. And it had immediate impact, which is rare when thinking on innovation. By turning managers and executives into servant-leaders and empowering our staff to pursue the best client solutions on their own, we transformed 352 almost overnight. Without a clear mandate for change, you simply won’t see the innovation you hope for.

Shape Your Story

Without a compelling reason to innovate, it simply won’t happen. You can’t just decide you’ll give employees 15% of time to think of the next big thing and expect results. When 352 transitioned to agile, I knew the results we wanted to see and we told our employees every day:

  • Happier, more productive employees
  • Improve the quality and speed of development
  • Clients who consistently returned for more work
  • To become an elite digital product and innovation agency

Of course, that story isn’t enough without a structure. An innovative culture requires values to match, and employees should be measured against those company values in everything they do. Our five values are all about bringing smart people together to create last relationships and build smart digital products. Before you can motivate employees to embrace innovation, you need them to buy into the story of why they should care in the first place.

Celebrate Learning (Even If That Means Failing)

As an entrepreneur, I’ve been very open about a failed venture and how it shaped my perspective on business and product development. While it was a professional and personal disappointment, it also served as one of the best learning experiences of my life. The startup world often says to celebrate failure – which is fine, as long as that failure brings new insight and changes your behaviors. Innovation requires embracing risk, but that risk should continually shape the way you approach new projects and attack new ideas.

You’ll hear about all this and more at the next EES event, held at Tech Square Labs on May 4th. In addition to great networking with Atlanta innovators, it features former Equifax Chief Innovation Officer and Creative Growth Ventures founder Alex Gonzalez, and Margaret Martin, founder of augmented reality company CN2. Visit 352inc.com/EES to learn more or click here to reserve your spot.