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To Be or Not to Be: Choosing the Innovation System That Fits Your Business

by Eban Escott, Feb 20, 2017

Last week I discussed Agile and Lean - leading business philosophies, as well as two of the leading methodologies these have produced (Scrum and Kaizen). I discussed the similarities of these concepts. And therein lies the rub: how do you know which is best for you? How do you know which innovation system best fits your business?
If you are asking these questions, then I think you need to take a step back and take a second look at the concepts in question. The key theme in each and every one of these is agility and adaptability over centralization and tradition. Agility and adaptability! There is no one size fits all in business. At times Agile will be better, but sometimes Lean will be. Rarely will the decision be straightforward enough for you to be able to follow a set of do's and don'ts. 
What you should do is understand these concepts (Agile and Lean in particular) as well as your business and employees. It's no accident that these progressive philosophies and methodologies are so alike. They are a series of interconnected and overlapping principles. Communication, whether internal or external, reigns supreme. To be Agile/Lean is to recognise that it's better to act on communication than it is to communicate on action. As I have previously stated, it's easier to change plans than code or graphics. So make sure those plans are accurate. Accurate scope discovery is as important as code and UI.

Innovate or Perish

While I was completing my Ph.D. I came across a phrase used in academia: "publish or perish." The premise is that academics that don't publish will lose ground to those that do. They will miss out on research grants, and, as a consequence, research opportunities. They will also miss out on the recognition that comes with having your name attached to a paper students and other academics will read and cite. And so: publish or perish.
Whether it's as simple as that, I will leave for the academics to debate. What I will say, however, is this: innovate or perish. The advance of technology shows no signs of slowing. If anything, the introduction of disruptive innovation means it's accelerating. What works today may still work tomorrow, or it may not. Considering what has happened this century alone—smart phones, social media, streaming, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), etc, I think it's fair to say that the odds are on the latter.
Within my own industry - cloud migration and third party API development, this philosophy is particularly true. The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing, and the ways in which we can interact with these devices is also growing. Those who are not ready, risk being left behind. 

Innovation: Agility and Adaptability over Centralisation and Tradition

At WorkingMouse we are always trying to innovate; refining and trialling new methods each day. We are currently trialling new processes and technologies, such as ‘Friday Arvo'. A time slot designated to relaxing and learning new, innovative concepts. Last week we had an Agile guru come in and run a workshop. This is our innovation system. Exercises such as these help make WorkingMouse more agile and more innovative.
Whether you get your Agile tips and tricks through a guru or some other way, my advice is the same: come to grips with and understand the concepts. Understand, not obey. The overarching idea of Agile is agility and adaptability over centralisation and tradition. The same is true of Lean, Scrum, and Kaizen. Be Agile and Lean in the most important way, discard the aspects of Agile/Lean that don't work in your business. Be innovative. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither were Agile and Lean. They have evolved, and so must you and your business. Evolution comes in many forms and you can deploy different methods. However I'm a big believer in the philosophy that every company should consider themselves a software development company. Software development modernises your processes and product, ensuring what you're doing and what you're selling are still relevant and innovative.

Summary

To be Agile/Lean is to recognise (1) that it's better to act on communication than it is to communicate on action, and (2), that change is inevitable. Technology continues to advance and shows no signs of slowing. Because of this, there will always be opportunities to be innovative. How you respond to these maxims could be the difference between being a Nokia and being a Samsung. How you accomplish agility and adaptability over centralisation and tradition isn't important. What's important is that you do it!