Six ways to foster faster digital innovation

Weve entered the age of Digital Darwinism, where companies evolve or perish. Borders, Blockbuster and Kodak are just a few high-profile victims of digital disruption. But many more organisations, large and small, are headed toward their demise if they dont rapidly transform their business for the digital age.

For this reason, businesses across industries are scrambling to digitise their customer experience, internal operations, and even their business models. 

How can you keep pace and out-innovate not only your traditional competitors but disruptive new market entrants

Follow these six tips for fostering faster digital innovation.

(1) Lead from the top

According to one recent survey, two-thirds of high-performing digital organisations say their CEOs personally sponsor digital initiatives at their companies, compared with 44 per cent of their peers. 

Thats because CEOs and other senior executives are in the best position to not only craft the organisations digital vision, but lead the cultural change required to transform the business.

(2) Work with, not around, IT

Business leaders may be tempted to circumvent IT in an effort to expedite new digital initiatives. However, George Westerman writes in his book Leading Digital that “digital masters” all find ways to work with their IT units, not around them. 

Regardless of whether digital is owned by your CDO, CIO, CMO or some other executive, IT must be actively involved to ensure successful outcomes. Bring your IT leader into strategic digital discussions and find a common language for business and IT to work together to drive innovation.

(3) Dedicate your best people

Its also important to dedicate your best people to your organisations digital initiatives. We often tell our clients that the best way to get started is to lock a few smart people in a room and give them a mandate and a very short timeframe to figure it out. Youll be amazed at what they can accomplish. 

More importantly, other smart people will catch wind of their success and want to be a part of it too.

(4) Move quickly

Speed is crucial to winning in todays digital marketplace, where the pace of innovation is accelerating. For example, it took the telephone 75 years to reach 100 million users, but Instagram accomplished the same feat in just two years. 

You must be able to bring new ideas to market quickly, in a matter of weeks. If a project takes months or years to deliver, youll be too late. A competitor will have beaten you to it, or the market will have moved on.

(5) Fail small, learn fast

Spotify founder Daniel Ek said, We aim to make mistakes faster than anyone else. Ek recognises that innovation requires making mistakes along the way; the key is simply to fail small and learn fast from those mistakes. 

In order to embrace this mind-set, you must be able to spin up experiments quickly and at low cost, test them with small audiences, and have good measures in place to monitor progress. This will enable you to rapidly evolve your strategies, build competitive advantage, and stay in tune with external change.

(7) Distribute innovation

While establishing a dedicated team is a great way to get your digital initiatives off the ground, your ultimate goal should be to create distributed innovation capabilities across your entire organisation. 

Great ideas live in every corner of your organisation. If someone in marketing or finance or HR has an idea that can help the company innovate, they should be empowered to act upon it.

At its heart, digital innovation happens at the intersection of a business person with an idea and someone with the technical aptitude to bring it to life. 

In order to successfully transform your organisation, therefore, you must bring business and IT together and create a culture of collaboration and rapid experimentation that unleashes the creativity of your entire workforce. Its the only way youll survive and thrive in the Digital Age. 

Derek Roos is the CEO and co-founder of Mendix.

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