/ 5 Secrets to a More Agile and Innovative Organization

At a time unlike any this world has been through over the last century, organizations that place an emphasis on agility and innovation have a distinct competitive advantage in their marketplace no matter what may come next, experts believe.

“We have to be agile right now because we have to move quickly, and we have to innovate because nobody’s been in this situation before—at least not for 100 years.”

That particular comment was made by renowned author, speaker, and data management and analytics specialist Donald Farmer during Episode 7 of CURIOSITY, a Domo-sponsored video series that explores why now is the time to “do” data differently.

Donald was joined by two other authorities on the topic of agility and innovation: Mohammed Aaser, the chief data officer at McKinsey & Company; and Keith Carter, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s school of computing and the director of its fintech lab.

The session began with a question from Donald, who moderated the discussion, about what organizations must do to get to or remain at the cutting edge of innovation in order to navigate an ever-changing business environment. Keith responded by saying it all starts with being able to understand who you’re serving and what it is they want or are up against.

“We have to have empathy for our customers,” he said. “We have to say (to our colleagues and teammates), ‘Hey, listen, we were always here for the customer first, so what can we be doing to help them?’”

In order to assist in such a way, it’s important to foster a culture that has license to aim for quick wins without being afraid to fail, Mohammed suggested.

“If you can demonstrate value (in those experiments) fast,” he said, “it creates a snowball effect. People get behind you. They want to be involved. And then it becomes easier to say, ‘Let’s invest more. Let’s do more. Let’s build on this.’”

Another key component to becoming more agile and innovative is to communicate candidly—and to the point where everybody within the organization is always in the know about what is happening and is clear on how they can contribute, the trio said.

“When there’s a shared vision and purpose to what you’re doing,” Donald explained, “it enables agility. You can change direction so much easier.”

Play this video clip to hear Donald’s analogy to organizations that can change direction quickly.

Good communication doesn’t just involve talking, though. It also involves listening, Mohammed said. And when you listen with receptiveness, you inspire questions, which lead to innovation.

“Questions are going to inform us as to what data we need,” Keith added, “as well as how valuable the answers might be.”

That said, you can’t ask questions unless you are comfortable asking questions. And feeling comfortable ultimately comes down to trusting what you say or question is going to be met with genuine interest and kindness, Mohammed stated.

“If you can build an environment of psychological safety, where people feel comfortable speaking up, then they can take ideas that aren’t polished and continue to iterate until they are,” he asserted.

Donald, whose firm, TreeHive Strategy, offers workshops on innovation strategy, agreed.

“The trust that we build (in our organizations) is absolutely essential to agility and innovation,” he said. “The higher the level of mutual trust we have, the more we can innovate.”

To learn more about how you can make agility and innovation a bigger part of your own organization, and to discover what innovations have stood out to Donald, Mohammed, and Keith in 2020, watch or listen to Episode 7 of CURIOSITY here.

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