Category Archives: Innovation

Finding Your Lightbulb Moment

I feel lucky that I have had a very diverse career where I have worked in many industries from Computer games at companies like Argonaut Software, Core Design, Electronic arts through to financial services companies like Egg Bank, and Dollar Financial and then in healthcare at Boots / Walgreens. Now I am working for a young and very exciting tech start up called Buying Butler.

Last week I was looking back to when I was a kid and tried to remember what that lightbulb moment was that set my career on its own trajectory. What started it all off? When I was a kid, around 14 years old I wanted to make computer games and Me and a good friend, Chris, would spend most of our spare time working on these games, but this was just a hobby. For me the catalyst that started my career moving when either me or my Dad, I can’t remember specifically who it was, found a small advert in a computer magazine from small start-up publisher looking for people who had developed computer games.

dark mission

One of my first computer games, Dark Mission

This was in the Commodore Amiga days. We got in touch with them and showed the game me and Chris was working on called Dark Mission. It was an isometric shoot-em-up / adventure game very heavily influenced by the film Aliens.  This small publisher called GKS Design wanted to release our game. I don’t think I have ever been so excited. This was around the time of us doing our GCSE exams at school, so we would split our time studying and developing this game.

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How to Motivate and Innovate Part 4 : Leadership Styles

In the previous articles in this series I covered Motivation, Finding meaning in your work, and how to encourage innovation in your team. In this final part of the series I want to discuss some different leadership styles you can adopt with your team.

There are many different types of leadership style you can adopt and rarely does one size fit all. Sometimes over the lifetime of a team you will need to adapt your style to fit a certain scenario, or use a specific style with different people on the team, especially if they are persistent under-performers.

You need to adapt your leadership style to different scenarios.

You need to adapt your leadership style to different scenarios.

Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leaders are people that follow rules to the letter, and they ensure their team follow rules and process to the letter of the law. If you are working in an environment where safety both to people and systems is essential then this type of leadership style is needed.  If you have a team that does a lot of repetitive and manual work, then this style is also very well suited. If you want your people to be creative and innovative, then this isn’t the best style. You can use a blend though where you slip into bureaucratic leadership if you have a strict deployment or change management process to follow.

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Dieter Rams : 10 Principles of Good Product Design

Since I wrote my article recently about Google’s 9 principles of innovation a reader over on Reddit pointed me to a resource on some more good design principles. These are the 10 Principles for Good Design by a German industrial designer Dieter Rams.

Dieter Rams : 10 Principles of Good Product Design

Dieter Rams : 10 Principles of Good Product Design

Dieter Rams introduced the idea of sustainable development and of obsolescence being a crime in design in the 1970s. Accordingly he asked himself the question: is my design good design? The answer formed his now celebrated ten principles.

Whilst Dieter was an industrial and product designer, his principles can fit anywhere where good design comes into play. In the rest of this article, I will explain what the 10 principles are, and how I think they fit into software development.

The principles in this article are very useful for software developers and designers, but this is also very relevant for technical leaders. As a leader it is good to try and push your teams to make sure they are thinking about the end user. Traditionally, software developers make lousy designers (not all of them before I start a flame war), but aesthetic design, generally, isn’t something that comes naturally to programmers. Therefore having principles like these is great for giving you pause to reflect on how your system / application affects your end users.

The different product images below are examples of products designed by Dieter. Those of you old enough may recognize a few!!

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Google’s 9 Principles of Innovation

Whilst doing my daily trawl through the internet and Reddit pages, I came across a very interesting talk at the San Francisco Dreamforce Summit where Google’s Chief social evangelist, Gopi Kallayil talks about Googles 9 principles of innovation. Please do go and watch the video as it is a great insight to the inner workings of Google, but here are the 9 principles summarized here.

Googles 9 Principles of Innovation

Googles 9 Principles of Innovation

Innovation comes from anywhere

An idea for an innovation doesn’t have to just come from your super star employees. Ideas can come from anyone. There is a really good example that Kallayil mentions where an onsite doctor at Google had idea that if someone talks about suicide in a Google search that the first item in the search results should be the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.  The call volume to the helpline went up 9% after that. This is a great example that an idea for an innovation, no matter how small, can have a big impact.

Google's automatic reference to a suicide hotline.

Google’s automatic reference to a suicide hotline.

Due to the impact of this one small change, they have now rolled this type of change out across the world. In the screenshot above you can see where it shows the phone number of the Samaritans.

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How to Motivate and Innovate Part 3

In the first 2 articles in this series I talked about what is motivation and how developers can find meaning in their work. An effective development team is a team that is engaged in their work, feels as though their contribution is valued and that the work they are doing has real benefit for the business.

In this 3rd part of the series I want to talk about innovation and how you can encourage it within your teams. Being able to innovate is something every developer should want to do, but you need to control the innovation process properly otherwise you can end up with a team just doing their own thing and taking their eye of the ball for the business.

Encourage your team to innovate solutions.

Encourage your team to innovate solutions.

What is Innovation

Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, in-articulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and, as consequence, new that “breaks in to” the market or into society. One usually associates to new phenomena that are important in some way. A definition of the term, in line with these aspects, would be the following: “An innovation is something original, new, and important – in whatever field – that breaks in to (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society.”

Definition of Innovation from WikiPedia

As the quote above says, innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements. I believe it is important to try and foster a culture of innovation in a software development team as your developers (I am including QA’s, UI designers, and anyone technical in this too) are the brains behind your companies systems. Innovation can come in many forms. It could be an idea for a completely new system, or it could be an enhancement to an existing system or process. If your innovation could end up taking a large amount of time to implement, maybe you can do a proof of concept first to sell the idea to your management or business sponsors.

I want to give an example of a recent innovation that has come from my team and talk about how it has benefited the business. This is an example that ended up being a large revenue generator, even though the actual ideal was quite simple and didn’t take that long to implement.

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