May 01, 2017 development

Maybe you are working in a company developing software and feel that your work has become routine and boring. Maybe you look outside and think that in other companies the work is more "fun", entertaining or challenging. I want to invite you to think twice. Maybe the problem is not the company but you.

First, I would like to meditate a bit on what we mean by innovation. If we do a quick search on Google, you will notice that there are several approaches and in general the most important in business is the economic approach. But I want to dwell on what makes us feel useful as software developers and is the innovation in technology. After reading a bit we could reach an agreement on the meaning of innovation:

It is the process of translating an idea or invention into a product, process or service that creates or adds value, or satisfies some need.

We can come to think that to do something innovative you have to have a moment of inspiration that translates into something fantastic, but if we look more closely at those companies that we believe are innovative, we will see that innovation in general happens on the other hand and it is a process of constant change.

If we think of innovative companies today, we can think of Tesla or Space X by Elon Musk. In the case of Tesla we consider it innovative, even though they did not invent electric cars, nor electric batteries ... but they took something that already existed and innovated with that: they designed a long-term plan to spread the electric cars and overcome the obstacles imposed by the oil companies, they thought how to lower costs so that their cars are more accessible to the general public and sought to design them as any other street vehicle is designed. I could continue thinking in small details where they applied innovative ideas within an existing business, but thanks to these ideas grew exponentially.

On the side of Space X, they did not invent space trips, or rockets, or put satellites in orbit, but while everyone was doing things as they knew how to do them, they came up with the idea of ​​reusing rockets to reduce costs. That idea could be carried out by landing the rockets vertically on a floating platform! (It is something amazing to see again and again, if you did not see it: and the full video including the launch v = GLTe3G86XG0).

If we look at a software giant like Google, they also did not invent the web search engines, but without a doubt they found how to innovate within what web browsers were and I think they are doing quite well ... no?

In short, innovate happens more by doing new things within what we know, than by inventing something new that we do not know. So if you really feel bored in your work, it is because you already have a great knowledge of what you are doing, and that is very useful when developing something innovative!

So, how can you innovate? First, take a look at what you do and how you do it in order to see how to improve it. Then:

  • Find inspiration: read, observe what others do, exchange ideas with our colleagues, look for alternative ways of seeing reality
  • Have initiative and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and how it may help your company
  • Plan how you will implement, keeping in mind that simplicity and fast deliveries are key for others to support you.
  • Hands-on and KISS: try to reuse everything we have available, do not worry too much about performance at the beginning. It is important to take advantage of the momentum and have something functional as soon as possible.
  • Spreading is one of the most important tasks, because if there is something I learned reading about innovation it is that if it is not disseminated, it is only an invention. If you don't find support for your plan is almost worthless to start implementing.

By spreading there's always the risk failure. Yes, but it is important to lose that fear if you want to become an innovator: it is unlikely that you will achieve success on the first attempt, so you have to keep trying (it is the harsh reality). But if you were to fail with your idea, evaluate what you failed and learn ... perhaps what you learned serves to modify your invention and that the next iteration goes well (here is a little clearer the idea of ​​a process). To spread implies to contrast our idea with the vision of the other, to nourish it with new information and to improve our solution again. Maybe this process has to be repeated several times until your idea provides real value, but when that moment arrives you will find the satisfaction in your job that you were looking for.

There is an important part that I did not emphasize: time. Surely you will be thinking, at what moment can I do all that? Well, it's part of the planning. You have to find the space to innovate. Try to detect and automate those routine tasks, look for enthusiasts and collaborators who want to contribute to your idea so you do not have to do everything alone, do not expect to have something perfect for just then spread it or if they will not win you by hand or you may never have something that you feel that it is worth showing, do not put the stick very high, it raises short objectives, which will reduce the time that you must dedicate.

Finally, if you do not feel happy with what you do, change it, modify it, do it again, dare to innovate! But do not think that the satisfaction in your work will come "from above" or from the company in which you work, often the one that has to change is one.

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Written by Gastón Fournier Software Engineer at @getunleash working from Cunit, Tarragona, Spain, where I live with my wife and 2 dogs. Find me on Twitter Github LinkedIn