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Startup: Collective Vision at the Heart of Innovation Part 2

by Sooman Jim

Essential Keys to Innovation  

Innovation is not a quest for solitary geniuses but rather a collective art. A performance that can be developed based on key principles. This short episode of the Macintosh is an opportunity to highlight them. 

The first key element to innovation is that the creativity and the ability to innovate of a team develop if it has a clear and shared objective, a motivating challenge that carries meaning for each of its members. This vision, Steve Jobs conveyed to his team by telling them that they were hackers who were fighting against Apple’s “bureaucratization”, against the IBM monopoly and to make computers accessible to as many people as possible. How? By creating the first consumer computer with a graphical interface in history. Federated around a vision that conveys meaning and is inhabited by the feeling that what it achieved was going to count, the Macintosh team developed motivation and creativity. 

Federating around a clear and shared vision that conveys meaning must be the starting point and a required step for any startup or team that wants to innovate. In this matter, there is no need to want to «change the world» as long as everyone, within the collective, has the feeling that what he or she works on will have a real impact on a given area or domain.  

Defining a relevant vision in terms of “meaning” and “impact” also requires asking these questions, the answers of which will be invaluable: What problem are we addressing? What challenges do we face? And above all, why, when and how will my customers discover and use my innovation, product or service? How will they become ambassadors, spreading it through the social fabric? It is always within this shared and unifying vision that a team will nurture its courage necessary for transgression and its ability to prioritize its work in terms of its “added value” or “customer value”. 

The vision of «pirate» transmitted by Steve Jobs, was materialized by the flag of the Macintosh team. We can see a form of «visual management», the opportunity to open the door to a second key principle: sensory management. A team’s ability to create and innovate is enhanced if it develops dissemination and circulation of information, particularly in a visual (writing, drawing, etc.) auditory (words and sounds) but also kinesthetic way (the movement of a Post-it on a painting, the gesture, the movement…). The synchronization of team members on the same level of information, regarding progress, work in progress or the direction of future work, improves collective performance. 

A team exploits the possibilities of its space by setting up an information radiator. An “information radiator” is a physical element that is visible and easily accessible by all team members.  

Depending on the team’s choices, the “information radiator” will be able to group different elements such as a column chart; Numerical indicators, ideally written by hand, providing relevant information on collective work; progress bars colored to visualize numerical objectives. Or any other element that may illustrate collective performance. 

The term “information radiator” is used to show that this set of visual indicators continuously radiates information, such as the heat of a radiator, promoting team synchronization. This “information radiator” will be all the more effective as it will be used to bring the team together in a ritualized way (ideally standing up to promote short and efficient meetings) in order to orally share the progress of the current project (a combination of auditory evocation mode). Moving a Post-it from a “to-do” column to the “in progress” or “completed” column, as well as writing an encrypted indicator or coloring a progress bar, all of these elements can be of immense help to any start-up aiming to boost its creativity and skyrocket its innovative capacities. 

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