Developers – built to follow, or designed to innovate?

Developers – built to follow, or designed to innovate?
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Constraining ideas to innovate within business is something that really bothers me (see my video rant), so much so that I may even start a campaign one day. Across industry, the need to deliver the day to day still prevents productive transformation from occurring.

Frustratingly, it seems that despite my world influencing blogs, things are not changing quickly enough.

We’ll be producing a white paper before too long, focusing on the dangers that businesses face after benefiting from consultancy services, then freezing activity whilst they stop to assess, and ‘have a think’ about what they should do next.

I recently watched a trailer for an upcoming comic book adaption where the main protagonist is told ‘you do your best thinking when you’re not thinking at all’. It’s very true, when we think too much what typically happens next is nothing.

There’s a lot to be said for striking whilst the iron is hot or making the most of the wind being in your sails. There seems to be an awful lot less said about the damage that is done when you don’t take advantage and then have to start again.

But that’s for another day and another blog.


I have an Idea

You won’t need reminding that the lifeblood of an organisation is its people. Not long ago, I stated that your business must be a living embodiment of innovation and practically breathe change to enhance the way you operate.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a fine line between nurturing continuous improvement by understanding the pain points from the shop floor, and getting an ear bashing from some serial whingers. But before we end up institutionalising our people and blocking all paths to change, isn’t there a better way to operate?

One where your best asset has the chance to make a difference to the place that they work?

As it turns out, that they are not a replaceable headcount who are just there for the paycheque; mercenaries of sorts.I think a lot of Execs would be surprised to see just how much some of their people care about their business, how many choose to take ownership for keeping things running and just how many want to make things happen.

FYI – if you’re not sure, the money mercenaries are actually the contractors that you bring in at great expense to make something happen and who then leave without completing the job.


Stunted Development

You’ll have some of those excellent video demonstrations of how much more an artist can create, when given the time. The one where you see the quality of a sketch over 10 minutes, then the reduction in quality when it’s completed in 1 minute, and then finally, the scribble that you get when you push for a 10 second product.

Obviously, this is a metaphor for everything that we do and in business, readily reflects the quality of the work that can be done by any project team if the timeframe does not align with the scope. This is no more better demonstrated than it is in dev environments.

I read something recently that suggested up to 70% of development work is wasted, so I’m not surprised that people think that there’s scope for speeding things up; but I’m not convinced by that at all. What others might deem to be waste, I’d argue is part of a process that defines the final product and strips out all the unnecessary elements.

I’ve been lucky of late to work with several gifted developers from our Partners at Recombix. Josh has brought together a team of people who are not just gifted developers but also bring ideas and ambitions to deliver innovation throughout even the most mundane of deliveries. I’ll freely admit that this helped open my own eyes and really appreciate what developers can do when given the chance.

And it is that CHANCE which is often the issue.

Too often it seems that developers are hired simply to follow instruction and develop services that help an organisation to catch up with a competitor. It was a great inspiration to me that once said:

‘Why are we trying to catch up with someone, rather than trying to get ahead of them?’

Ok, that ‘great inspiration’ was Dilbert, but the point remains the same.


 ‘Mum, Dad…..I want to go to Art College’

If you’re paying money for someone to create something for you, then of course you should get what you want, but are we asking for the right thing?

Are we commissioning our own ideas for someone else to present it exactly in the way that it is in our mind? Because despite not being able to deliver it ourselves, it is absolutely, without question, the most brilliant idea ever. Or, should we give people a concept and let them do what they do best and deliver that whilst adding in something fantastic for value add purposes?

If you commissioned an artist to paint your portrait, you wouldn’t tell them how to paint (though you would of course want proof of their credibility). You certainly wouldn’t dismiss their knowledge in terms of lighting or determining the best setting to maximise the quality of the final product.

Placing those constraints on people who are engineers, developers, creative types or just someone who has an ambition to find a better way, just feels counter-productive.

Great developers are in such high demand that they get pulled into the most exciting environments and companies who want to, and can, give them the freedom to utilise their skills. It’s a demand market, and for everyone else, day to day business still needs to be delivered.

Few of us can afford the luxury of buying in a developer who can just sit around and be ‘creative’. But if you enable your people, and the people that you buy in, just enough so that they bring a creative edge to everything that they do and add that little bit of something different, well, it could make all the difference.

I see something that Simon Sinek said in almost every article that I read recently, but I do like his thinking, so why should my own work be any different? On a recent podcast he said:

”We have to understand the interplay between intensity and consistency. You can’t go to the gym for 9 hours and get into shape. It doesn’t work. But if you work out every day for 20 minutes, you will absolutely get into shape. The problem is, I don’t know when.”

This is also true for bringing innovation to your business, consistently encouraging people to do a little, over time, will in the end, yield brilliant results. Surely that is more effective than a three-day whiteboard session, solely dedicated to finding ways to make change work.

You have to remember that innovation alone delivers nothing but an idea. To embed it requires an investment in terms of both time and money, and most importantly in achieving cultural change. It’s why we operate an approach that puts people first. This is the same whether on a global scale or on something slightly less complex, but perhaps equally politically charged, such as your organisation.

As an unwise man, who is not a TED speaker, nor on anyone’s podcast and instead, chooses to rant to people in the office and via LinkedIn articles once said:

”Once your people are hungry to challenge the norm, you will be able to test out innovative solutions without having to commit to any long-term, and potentially crippling, investment.”

I must also give a plug to our friend Mirek Lucan, over at LucanArt, who took the concept of our engagement approach, understood it, challenged it, before then nurturing it and bringing his own ideas and creative edge to deliver our new artwork. We love it.

I would love to hear your thoughts on innovation, developers and delivering change, so please do comment, like and share so that we can grow the conversation. If you would like to talk more about how businesses can innovate, then let’s grab a coffee.

Get in touch at or feel free to leave me a comment. You can also join the conversation via LinkedIn; and be sure to check out our other blogs.

Matt Wilding

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