Let’s say you’re a leader at a Fortune 500 company. You know you need to move faster and take on more risks with your digital products. How do you conquer your “innovator’s dilemma”?
You need the right structure and the right people. Today, I wanted to talk about the people.
You need dynamic, passionate, multi-skilled, highly talented people. In other words, you need people in high demand. Your brand name isn’t enough. Your secure paycheck isn’t enough (that works on different types of people).
Here are some things to think about lining up:
Potential talent is going to examine whether your “new product” teams actually have buy-in from the very top, enough budget to last more than a year, protection from infighting, a clear mission to align with, and the support to take proven ideas and scale them.
The best talent wants to work for someone they can respect and learn from. You need at least two anchors: one to attract great design and business people, and one to attract the best engineers.
An inspiring culture is simultaneously demanding and fun. It promotes excellence and accountability, as well as independence and fun. It is friendly to risk-taking and even failure if it is done with learning and minimal waste. You need the right leadership to pull the best work out of people, but also keep them motivated and engaged. The kind of talent you want can get another great job offer in a blink of an eye.
While your intrapreneurs should respectfully involve the rest of the business, you need to free your innovation team from the controls you rightly need for the rest of the business. Nix overly conversative lawyers, excessive documentation and reporting, incessant meetings, and meddling executives trying to dictate their whims. Give your leaders the ability (and budget) to make local decisions.
Put simply, the physical work environment needs to feel dynamic, collaborative, and optimistic. It does not need to be a pricey build-out — this kind of talent cares more about making awesome products than fancy digs. That said, you can’t think that you’ll attract people into cubicle farms and a depressing office space. You need a working space with a modern feel. It should include both open areas for general work and enough private rooms for meetings and conference calls.
Want to attract good programmers and designers? The little things matter. Give people good desks and chairs, cinema displays, and great Internet connectivity. When you compare this to the huge cost of finding and keeping talent, it amazes me that companies try to penny-pinch here, and thus shoot themselves in the foot. This is not about spoiling people. Rather it is about giving highly productive people the tools they need to be even more productive.
You want a modern team? Don’t bind them to your legacy tech stack, but allow them to use their judgement and choose when and how to migrate or integrate. Give them the freedom to work the way startups work: modern languages, modern processes (cross-functional teams, lean, agile); open source code; modern third-party admin and analytics tools; cloud-based hosting, etc.
Great people want to work in effective ways. Software developers want a non-b.s. flavor of agile. Designers want the ability to be thoughtful, to iterate, and to talk to real customers. The entire team should want to work *together*, with designers, engineers and business folks all working closely. The entire team will want to focus delivering on the outcomes that really matter, and thus management needs to try to restrain itself from dictating solutions and features, and instead lay out goals and problems to solve.
It’s a tall order for many established companies, not just to put these things in place, but to make the best talent out there actually believe that it is truly in place. But it’s worth it.