Big Ideas

Three Ways to Drive a Culture of Innovation

At Mindtribe, we are constantly iterating and improving our processes for building groundbreaking connected hardware. Our agile for hardware approach to connected product development drives how we innovate for, and with, our clients. As a result, the products we’ve worked on are touted as some of the world’s most successful hardware. However, how we drive success really comes down to our team – specifically our commitment to building a culture of innovation.

Below are the three ways that you can drive a culture of innovation that breeds success:

1. Establish Goals That Correspond to Your Shared Values

It’s important to have clear, values-based goals set forth so the team knows what they’re driving toward. It can be difficult to keep in mind what success looks like if you don’t establish these goals upfront and don’t connect them to a deeper sense of success, however, your team defines it. Creating these foundational goals leads to an environment where team members can confidently drive towards success together.

For our team at Mindtribe, we have three goals that fundamentally drive every aspect of our work. We commonly refer to it as the “Mindtribe Dream”:

  • Individual fulfillment: We strive to work on projects that we are passionate about with a team we enjoy working with. We help one another, respect each other, leverage each others’ strengths, communicate with each other, hold each other accountable, learn together, and teach one another.
  • Impact of our work: At a minimum, we want to work on projects that matter to people and have a real impact on the world. When your team is passionate about the work they’re doing you’ve created an incubator for innovative solutions.
  • Fair Compensation: It’s important to have the financial picture to live our lives the way we want. This means we ask for fair compensation for the value we provide, no more and no less.

2. Encourage A Creative Workspace

IDEO’s Neil Stevenson writes about the ways to make your workplace more creative. He polled some of IDEO’s designers and came up with a short list of solutions that help spark their creativity. We implement a lot of the tips he writes about, but here are our main takeaways:

  • A homey kitchen: It’s true that having a central location for the team to eat together and share ideas in an organic way helps drive creative conversations, but a homey kitchen really drives it home. I’ve seen brainstorms happen while someone is making their sandwich for lunch. I’ve also seen project challenges find resolutions while pouring a cup of coffee in the morning. Homey kitchens and communal spaces make people feel comfortable – and these protected spaces help break down barriers and drive creative conversations.
  • Movable and dedicated project space: Having a dedicated project space that is also movable gives the team more autonomy in how they work and express their creativity. When we start on a new project and have to move desks, we take our project desks with us. This sense of ownership helps us build and collaborate on projects without worrying about someone disrupting our space.
  • Display our values: Nestled in the lobby of our office is a magnetic wall featuring the Mindtribe Method. This method drives how we plan, innovate, and collaborate internally. Having this displayed is a great reference point and helps keep us centered when working on projects.
  • Creative tools in every space: Whether its post-it notes, movable whiteboards, or using our conference room doors for brainstorming, we do whatever we can to give our team the tools they need to let their creativity flow.

3. Identify Innovators

Innovative leaders seek to generate insight and knowledge through non-traditional ways such as experimentation, free exploration, improvisation, and rapid prototyping. But how do you figure out which individuals will do that in their everyday work?

At Mindtribe we struggle with this question because innovation is core to our business. We have to make sure we’re hiring the right people who value innovation as much as we do. To help answer this question, we’ve designed a custom screening and interview process to access people based on specific qualities. We look for team members who go beyond baseline technical knowledge, and also have deep collaborative skills, ability to lead, and who like to take on personal passion projects outside of work that can help broaden our team’s perspective in the workplace.

We have found this to be one of the most important drivers of innovation. At the end of the day, no matter what company you’re at, it’s the collective group of individuals (aka the team) that helps drive innovation and creates a vibrant company culture.

These are by no means the only way to bring innovation into the workplace, but it has worked well for us as an engineering-heavy firm. As you seek to build an innovative culture at your own company, think about the values that you want to espouse, the items and tools that could help inspire your colleagues, and the personal qualities that you believe define innovators in your space. All of these will help your company lean into the future and do great work.