Innovation, put simply, is about solving problems, not building a solution first and then looking for a problem to solve, says Yoyo’s chief technology officer, Ali Minaei. In his latest blog, Ali reveals how Yoyo is utilising the principles of autonomy, mastery and purpose to foster the right innovation from his team.
Innovation. I cannot think of a single company or organisation that doesn’t see this topic as central to their overall growth strategy. But how can a company successfully create the right working environment and attract the best talent to enable real innovation to grow.
Let’s first talk about why companies are so obsessed with “innovation” and “innovating”. A few reasons spring to mind:
- PR and marketing:
Describing your offering as innovative can increase brand awareness, build a community, and gives the impression of being No1 in your market.
- Talent acquisition and retention:
We all like to say we’re working on something totally new, which helps make for a happy team and it’s a great way to attract new talent.
- Disrupting the industry:
Linked to the two points above, but if your offering truly is innovative, it gives your company a unique and competitive edge in the market.
Where should real innovation come from?
One or all of these three reasons are often the justification behind why so many companies choose to create dedicated teams that are there purely to drive “innovation”. But it’s something we’ve actually steered clear of at Yoyo.
First, because it shouldn’t just be down to a few people to lead the innovation charge and a dedicated team creates the danger of being innovative for the sake of innovation.
Second, everyone in a company should care about fostering true innovation – and it’s not just about creating a shiny new toy!
Innovation can also come about by harnessing cutting-edge technologies to build something unique and new. Or it can simply come from the way you tackle an everyday job – increasing quality or simplifying a complex task!
Quality, not quantity ideas
As chief technology officer at Yoyo, I’m always telling my team that true innovation is about solving an existing problem – whether that problem is improving the customer’s experience, increasing brand awareness or saving the company money.
But too often, attempts to foster innovation can lead to building a solution first and then looking for a problem to solve! That is the opposite of innovation. So how do we encourage innovation without mandating it?
Some companies I’ve worked for in the past have tried to reward incentivisation by offering financial bonuses, extra days off or fancy new gadgets when we submitted new ideas for patents. Not bad, right?
In theory yes, in reality not so much. In my own experience, before becoming aware of these rewards, quality was key. We’d spend more time on one idea which, more often than not, turned into patents and went on to become real viable products.
However, when told about all the extra stuff we’d gain if we came up with more “innovation”, chasing more ideas soon took over delivering quality ideas.
There’s no denying, of course, that financial benefit are an important factor to someone’s job (it’s something Yoyo recognises and does), but it soon became apparent that this type of rewards incentive alone did little to motivate innovation and growth – if anything it was damaging in the long run.
At Yoyo we’ve taken a different direction and focused on three main factors to successfully drive innovation: autonomy, mastery and purpose!
Autonomy is a desire to be self-directed. In terms of garnering innovation, this means letting your team decide what they want to work on! Of course you have to find a balance – we all have to stay focused on the wider goals of the company – but you can enable your team to be autonomous by giving them time, resources and freedom, Just be an enabler and you will be surprised!
Mastery is a desire to get better at stuff! We all do a lot of things in and out of work to better ourselves, whether it’s taking a course, learning an instrument or reading a book. And there’s always a thrill when we witness our own progress.
Having an inspiring purpose is very important in the work environment – without a real sense of purpose we feel lost. At Yoyo, there are so many examples of people wanting to improve their work performance during their free time! In my tech world, Wikipedia, Linux, and so many other open source projects are perfect examples of this! Why are they doing it? Because it helps them get better and empowers their sense of purpose.
So there it is – give your team autonomy, enable them to work on the things they enjoy, and foster self-driven purpose. Do this and you’ll soon see innovation flourish.
And at Yoyo we’ve already put this strategy into action. Soon after joining Yoyo last year, I introduced a new innovation strategy for my team, where each member could spend 20% of our their time dedicated to personal development, innovation and improvement projects.
We can work on whatever we want and all we need to show is the results of our labours. And already so many of the ideas that have come out of this free time have been turned into big product features with dedicated teams working on them.
So pleased are we with the results that we’re going to start posting some updates about where these ideas are being taken. With so many exciting projects currently taking place, we want to reveal how we’ve got here and what you could do to help us in our work.
Watch this space!
If you’re interested in joining one of Europe’s fastest growing fintech companies and want to be part of something big, check out Yoyo’s latest job vacancies here.