A company’s infrastructure will make or break corporate innovation. To set up an effective innovation process, it’s crucial for an innovation manager to create an atmosphere that lets your team communicate efficiently, work on concepts and share files collaboratively.
Here are the 5 essential tools every innovation manager needs.
It’s certainly no secret that communication is key to successful teamwork – but maybe that’s exactly why it often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Especially when creating a new team, often consisting of members from different departments or even geographical locations, it’s important to determine and set-up a communication infrastructure that caters to everyone’s needs.
A transparent communication stream is vital to share information and to keep all team members up-to-date about ongoing projects and internal matters. It also helps create a working environment with good relationships among the employees as well as between employees and employer.
While e-mail and phone calls are still the most popular solutions for external communication, they are usually not the best choice for internal project communication anymore. Project communication is characterized by a high and fast information load that a larger audience needs access to.
The implementation of chat tools such as Slack into your company is a great way to get rid of full inboxes and to speed-up project communication. So-called channels offer the possibility to address different topics in different chatrooms. Instead of sending overly formal “reply all” e-mails to your colleagues and having a hard time keeping track of previous conversations and file attachments, discussions can be shifted to these chat channels. Of course, these solutions also offer one-on-one instant messaging with the additional benefit of showing you who’s online (and who you can expect a prompt answer from) and who’s not.
2. Team Building
When a company sets up an innovation process, usually new teams are created. Employees, who might have never worked together before, are now expected to bond and come up with innovative solutions in a short period of time. We’ve learned that, especially in the intense beginning of such processes, an extraordinary amount of time and resources is spent on group dynamics and sometimes even conflicts may occur.
Don’t rush a team that barely knows each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and has yet to define each person’s role, into a brand-new type of work. Take some time at the beginning to focus on team building and on preparing the members for future challenges.
There are several methods and tools to accelerate this process. One of them is a tool we developed – the “Coat of Arms”. The Coat of Arms supports teams regarding team building, the division of roles and managing expectations both within the team as well as towards its stakeholders. Working with the tool results in the definition of common values and characteristics, the creation of a roadmap for the project, a clear understanding of the scope of the idea and the first basic validation by customers/users. In short: creating ideal requirements for a harmonic cooperation within the team.
Feel free to use our Coat of Arms poster for your kick-off workshop – Download our template for free here.
3. Task Management
No more spreadsheets, no more excuses. Successful and effective project management is all about maintaining an overview about the previous, ongoing and upcoming activities, who’s responsible for them and when they are due. If every team member keeps their own calendar and to-do list, there’s no way for an innovation manager, team supervisor or another team member to keep track of the tasks. This lack of knowledge about each individual’s capacities may result in an unequal allocation of manpower, misunderstandings and in the worst case, missed deadlines and budgets.
One tool we regularly use for our own growth hacks and sprints is Trello. It will make the life of every innovation manager a lot easier. It’s a web-based task manager app that is both flexible and intuitive. With the help of boards, lists and cards, it gives you a visual overview of current tasks and lets you easily keep track who’s working on them.
4. File Management
Without a defined file management process, team members could eventually spend more time searching for the latest presentations, spreadsheets and other project files than on actual project work. A centralized storage for all business-relevant files is a must-have in every company. It’s the essence of creating a knowledge pool that will not only be highly valuable for current tasks, but also for future projects and employees.
For storage, many companies use local servers that can often only be accessed from within the company. However, innovation team members might be located in different companies or parts of the world might sometimes work from home or from co-working spaces. In order to be productive no matter where they are, it can be very useful to think of a cloud storage solution, such as Dropbox, either for the entire company or the project work only. All team members will benefit from accessing and being able to share files with each other.
No matter where your files are stored, it’s crucial to also define and communicate certain rules for storing the files, such as setting up a template folder structure based on everyone’s needs and a consistent pattern for naming files. Also, archive old files that are no longer needed instead of keeping all file versions visible. Don’t let things get messy.
As an innovation manager, you will already know one thing: employees have great ideas. So, the main focus of innovation teams is to explore these new business ideas, draft concepts and business models and finally implement them into the core business. While this may sound like a straight-forward process at first, the road of innovation can often be winding and bumpy.
Don’t let employees and promising ideas get lost along the way! Hand your employees the right tools so that they can successfully validate their ideas based on real market data. The solution we have in mind is our web-based lean Innovation Platform. It builds on our six-step process that guides teams through the whole innovation process, allowing them to steadily develop their ideas together and fast. There’s no need for additional textbooks or long research because the Innovation Platform comes with automated feedback as well as extensive help and inspiration sections.
All innovation teams in one place: the dashboard allows innovation managers to oversee the progress of multiple teams, assign tasks, and collaborate easily.
We wish you all the best for your project, if you have any questions, please shoot us a message: firstname.lastname@example.org