Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

If you want your company to be more innovative 9: communication and innovation openness in the face of due diligence barriers 4

Posted in HR and personnel, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on August 11, 2013

Improving a business as a competitive enterprise, and making it more effectively communicative and collaboratively innovative, can be as simple as providing employees with a place where they can come together and talk. My goal for this series is to at least briefly outline an approach for facilitating conversation and the sharing of ideas and for collaboration in a business, as an enabler of innovative excellence (see HR and Personnel, postings 165 and loosely following for Parts 1-8.)

I began this series discussing open and unrestricted collaborative innovation and bringing people together, and at least potentially from anywhere in the organization to create value from their combined efforts. I then began adding in specific functionally and operationally necessary checks to that across-the-board openness, first adding in communications limitations that become necessary for internal business-defined reasons, and then adding in externally mandated limitations and barriers. I have been focusing on collaboration in that context, and where legal requirements would limit who can share what information with whom, over the past three installments.

At the end of Part 8 I stated that I would shift from discussing reasons and circumstances for limiting and controlling the overall conversation, to consider the process of bringing people into it and vetting them so as to meet both internal strategic goals and requirements, and externally sourced legal guidelines and requirements. The basic goal here can be summarized very easily and succinctly:

• Effective collaboration requires bringing together groups of people who collectively have all of the necessary skills, experience and openness of perspective to be able to innovate,
• While limiting that group to only include those with necessary access permissions (e.g. for legally access-controlled data) and reliability so as to meet all due diligence requirements in place.

If the innovations that you seek, and those that you would settle for are simple evolutionary updates to already established product and service and process patterns – and you do not need or want any particular novelty or originality, meeting the terms of those two bullet points becomes a fairly simple and straightforward exercise in team assignment. You check to see what types of confidential data might have to be accessible by the development group for it to complete its upgrade assignment, and who has the requisite skills and experience from among that group for performing some set of specific sub-tasks that go into completing this project. Or you start by looking for people with the right skills and then filter from there to find ones with the necessary information access permissions – pick the order to meet your needs and according to which is scarcer: the requisite skills or the requisite clearance. And if you find you need to, for example, get an employee with some specialized skills set vetted to be allowed necessary data access permissions, do that to finish rounding out the team.

Note that that is a lot easier in most cases than starting with people who have requisite data access permissions, and then training them to a sufficient level of expertise for specific hands-on skills and experience required. Failure to achieve an acceptable mix for a team position from in-house can and does lead to bringing in consultants and contract workers as outside help.

There are a number of steps that have to be carried through for this and checked off for due diligence and risk remediation monitoring purposes, but they are virtually all readily standardized. This becomes a lot more complicated and nuanced, and team self-assembly becomes a lot more important as novelty and increased potential for achieving break-away novelty and disruptive innovation are sought.

There are many ways to deal with the challenges that a search for disruptive innovation creates. One of them is to in effect partition off secure information access within the development team with only members of that group that actually directly need access to it, offered that. I have to add though, that when you put internal barriers in place in a creative group or team, you thwart open creativity and you can readily kill of the creative, innovative potential of a project before it has even started, from that. The other approach is to hire and bring in people you can trust and to get everyone who might come in contact with access-restricted information to sign carefully drafted confidentiality agreements.

Ultimately, you have to be able to trust the people you work with and even – no, especially where confidentiality is required. You need to set up your processes so that they support the people working together on your business’ innovative projects – or anywhere, where there would be risk of confidentiality breech. And you need to support them by building an operational framework that automatically and smoothly presents them with due diligence-aware processes and practices that will work for them.

And I finish this posting by going back to an approach that I cited more extensively in earlier series installments and then mentioned in brief passing above in this one too: innovative team self-assembly.

If you give your employees and across the table of organization, resources for business social networking and communicating they will use them and they can be brought to actively want to do so. People who would work on and participate in an innovative new product or service or business process development project, in many cases at least, start out knowing who has what skills that might be needed, and who they are more or less likely to be able to work with comfortably. Even when there are substantial barriers and restrictions in place that could limit collaboration: from inside of the organization, from the outside and from legally mandated requirements, or from both, open innovation and team self-assembly and member self-selection and self-organization can be essential, and even if these teams do at times need formal approval and vetting.

I am going to finish this posting here and this series here too, at least for now. I am certain to continue writing about innovation in the workplace and best practice approaches to fostering it, and I will continue to write about the emerging 21st century Human Resources department as well. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at HR and Personnel and Social Networking and Business.

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