Embracing Rapid Innovation

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In this article we will discuss the characteristics necessary to excel in a competitive market that forces companies to innovate, adapt and learn on the fly

We’ve all heard the word “disruption.” We know that fast-moving startups can put pressure on even the biggest players in an industry. A famous example of this is how ridesharing has affected the market share of rental cars and taxi services — Uber and Lyft now dominate the market. Startups are well known for their ability to test ideas out quickly and pivot when they need to. Meanwhile, more established organizations tend to move more slowly and are often risk-averse. This makes sense — often times, trying new strategies or building new products means a lot of time, money, and effort with no guarantee of a reward. In fact, considering a staggering majority of startups fail, it can be assumed that many new initiatives and ideas will also fail. But the startups that make it can be a real threat to current industry leaders because of their ability to work quickly and find gaps in the market through experimentation. It is critical for established organizations to embrace rapid innovation, but how can they do so while avoiding the risks?

Identify Opportunities

Leaders in your organization presumably have expert, insider knowledge of the market you’re in. It’s important to use that industry knowledge to identify potential innovations before your competitors do. What ways can you disrupt and shape your industry? Are there any trends in the market, no matter how small, that can indicate where things are going? While it’s important to not overestimate any possible disruptors in the market, you want to be able to quickly identify the most promising and innovative ideas and figure out what pain points customers may have before they even know about it. Since technology is drastically reducing the lifespan of companies, it’s more crucial than ever to be aware of trends and get ahead of them.

Embrace Speed and Experimentation

Startups work quickly. They build something fast, test it out, and iterate as necessary to get the best possible product. This is how they’re able to come up with disruptive innovations and become industry leaders seemingly overnight — they try, fail, then try again. But startups are often also lean, with fewer employees and less overall to manage. Not to mention, they generally don’t have an already-existing product to maintain like larger, established companies. How can bigger organizations possibly work the way they do? There’s a number of methods that even large organizations have begun to implement in order to work more quickly. For example, Intuit’s Scott Cook embraced the idea of “decision by experiment.” He set up a system and promoted a culture where people can quickly and cheaply play around with ideas they’re passionate about, allowing employees to get involved and try new things. Other companies utilize accelerators, incubators, or hackathons to find new innovations and build a culture that encourages experimentation.

Changing how teams work day-to-day can also be effective. For example, using methods like a 5-day sprint can enable teams to innovate quickly and get products in front of users for testing. But something like this requires you to have teams that can not only work quickly, but make fast decisions and not get bogged down by gathering too much data or worrying too much about risk. So, how do you build these teams?

Build Teams Quickly

You need a team of fast-moving experts to get a prototype out. Currently, you have a pool of your current employees to choose from. While these current hires may have intimate knowledge of the company’s current initiatives and products, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the right skills to drive the organization in a whole new direction. But hiring new full-time employees can be a slow, frustrating, and costly process.

Luckily, agile talent such as freelancers, contractors, and consultants are easier to find and connect with than ever. Platforms like Celerative empower your organization to find and hire top talent while optimizing for the skill sets and expertise your project needs. Since freelancers can be hired and start working quickly, you can essentially form teams of “mini-startups,” where MVPs and prototypes are quickly built, tested, and iterated upon. Utilizing the metrics and data that Celerative offers for your projects can help you measure success and ensure milestones are being reached. This means you can quickly test out new ideas, monitor your team’s progress, and make fast decisions as to where to go next.

Given that freelancers often work on multiple and often temporary projects, they have the skills necessary to make quick decisions and act on them rapidly. You don’t need 100% of the information you wish you had to make decisions and freelancers are good at determining what information they need and working off of that. And if you’re optimizing skillsets, you can create lean, efficient teams that will rival any startup.

Creating teams of contingent talent also means you can get the perspective of people outside of your company. Fresh eyes on products from people who work on a variety of different projects can help you see things in a new light and better assess the direction your company needs to go in. And since freelancers can live all around the world, they may be able to give you ideas from a more global perspective allowing you to find markets and niches that you may never have thought of. Contingent talent is truly a great way for existing organizations to embrace rapid innovation without taking on too much risk.

Conclusion

While rapid innovation may seem difficult or impossible for an established organization, there are a number of ways companies can position themselves as innovators and even disruptors in their industry. Learning to notice market trends and determining what customers need before they know it is critical for business leaders today. Additionally, learning to embrace experimentation and think about new ways of building teams will be necessary in order to compete with newer startups.

Creating teams of agile talent and enabling them to build rapid prototypes and MVPs can ensure your organization can reap the benefits that startups are able to enjoy, without moving around current full-time employees or taking the time and effort to find new hires. By embracing contingent talent and a culture of rapid innovation, companies can continue to compete against more agile newcomers and survive this new age of disruption.

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