November 24, 2015

The importance of casual innovations

Kari-Pekka Pirinen

Bid Manager Trainee, Managed Services, Tieto

I feel confident in saying that innovation might be the only continuous source for competitive advantage, as it is the only source that can create new, unique and valuable resources. For me, innovations tend to bring to mind scientific breakthroughs and disruptive innovations that have shaped the world dramatically. However, most innovations are actually minor and have less influence. 

Still, we should not diminish the value of the smaller innovations, as some of them might turn out to be truly remarkable. The numerous minor ideas and revelations are something I would call casual innovations.

Personally, in my work I encounter sometimes tools, norms and processes, which are impractical, inflexible or overly complicated. These hardships inspire me to think of ways of improvement, not only to evolve the processes themselves, but to make my work and the work of my colleagues better and more efficient. The working environment in Tieto, which allows me more freedom to choose how I do my work, also gives the freedom to improve and adopt changes quickly. Open culture, not only in knowledge sharing but the openness to change, enables fast iteration and quick process development.

There are many kinds of innovations

Innovations can be roughly divided into four categories or dimensions: product, process, position and paradigm, which are often referred to as the four P’s of innovation. Product innovations often stand out the most clearly, but are by no means more important than the rest. Process innovations make our work easier and more efficient. Position innovations help us target our business better and create new business models. Lastly, paradigm innovations shape the way we view our offering.

Major product innovations are usually achieved by either development teams or extraordinary individuals. But to be able to look at one’s own work from a creative viewpoint - and constantly try to improve upon what we do, how we do it and how we envision it - is something anyone can do. People need the right mindset, but they also need the freedom to do it and the trust from their managers.

Innovation and creativity

Innovations are quite firmly related to creativity and thinking ‘outside the box.’ So how does one unlock creativity? Creativity can be considered being the sum of three aspects: creative thinking, technical expertize and motivation. Creative thinking is an individual’s own ability, which is hard to teach, but can be nourished. Technical expertize can be studied and taught, and is influenced from outside. Motivation is a combination of a person’s own aspiration and an encouraging environment.

Thus, any individual can deliver more creative work by looking deeper into the functions beneath the surface and by rethinking personal motivators. From a company’s perspective, creativity can be nourished by creating a pleasant physical space, setting goals related to improvement, and by providing training. In Tieto, these are best shown as inspiring spaces, the encouragement of new ideas, limiting bias criticism and freedom in ways of working. Moreover, in Tieto there are great special channels or ‘shortcuts’ through which any individual can pitch in new ideas, improvements or even products to the right people.

“But I’m just a regular white-collar guy?”

Innovations can and should be linked to everyday life as a mental model and perspective in which one is constantly looking for the best solution. Minor improvements in ways of working can have a significant effect on the quality of our own work, work time and everyday life. The motto for a casual innovator could be something like: “This is pretty good… but could it be better?”

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