From pharmaceuticals to automobiles to clothing, innovation propels companies into leaders within their sectors, winning customer loyalty and market share. But where innovation is an auxiliary goal for some industries, it’s the core objective for global tech companies. In fact, in an industry that’s getting more and more diverse and difficult to categorize—tech companies enable everything from streaming movies at home to manufacturing robots—you might say that innovation is the truest way to capture the technology sector’s unifying mission.
Innovation has always been the lifeblood of tech, a sector dedicated to helping people and businesses to do more, and to do it better and faster. And as we discussed in the first post of our Culture of Innovation series, prioritizing innovation is more critical than ever as we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.
Tech leaders recognize this imperative, but even they are lagging. According to research from McKinsey, the pharmaceutical and medical supplies industries are the only two that have prioritized innovation to the top of their lists. Meanwhile, just a meager 21% of executives across sectors say they have everything they need to capture new growth opportunities in the coming year.
If tech can’t get innovation right, then who can? In our first innovation post, we explored the critical components for establishing a culture of innovation. But we recognize that there can be many things standing in the way of achieving the ideal climate for nurturing innovation, for both startups and legacy companies. As such, a conversation about fostering a more collaborative, innovative corporate culture would not be complete without also addressing the barriers global tech companies face when it comes to innovating.
Innovation barrier #1: poor communication
More than 50% of employees say they experience difficulties communicating and collaborating with colleagues and external stakeholders, according to data from IDC1. For geographically distributed organizations, this problem can be even worse with disparate locations, time zones, and communication technologies all standing in the way.
Poor communication makes it harder to bounce around ideas and discuss potential breakthroughs, and it erodes innovation in other ways too. For example, for employees to conceive and develop groundbreaking projects that are aligned with the company mission, they must first have a good understanding of their organization’s objectives and priorities. This is instilled through both formal and informal communications and touchpoints, from company-wide newsletters, AGMs and town halls, to team meetings and one-on-ones with managers. Without ongoing reinforcement and opportunities to create buy-in, it’s difficult for individuals to come up with fresh ways to further their organization’s mission. Effective communications also help to get everyone on the same page and build trust, both crucial when employees put their heads together to come up with the next new thing.
Innovation barrier #2: inefficient or manual processes
Truly innovative companies rely on employees at all levels of the organization to come up with breakthrough ideas—not just a select group of people who have innovation written into their job descriptions. Many iconic inventions, including the Post-it note and Gmail, can be credited to employees who went above and beyond their daily responsibilities.
But such creativity requires drive and bandwidth, both of which can be sucked dry by organizational inefficiencies. Nearly six in 10 workers told IDC that they’re held back by inefficient and manual processes, which can contribute to low productivity, wasted time, and burnout2. This makes it harder for employees to get their basic work done—much less go the extra mile in order to innovate.
Innovation barrier #3: lack of visibility
Though it may just take one person to spark an idea, innovation relies on teamwork—from brainstorming to hone that initial seed through to all of the steps required to nurture it to life. Silos are the enemy of such collaboration because they obscure what’s going on, keeping team members in the dark about what others are doing and restricting access to vital information. And yet organizational silos are incredibly common: more than four in 10 employees say they don’t receive timely status updates and have little to no visibility into key processes and information, according to data from IDC3.
As tech companies become increasingly distributed, with remote workforces who must work together without the hub of the office to join them, such disconnects will likely become even more common—and will require explicit, concerted efforts to be overcome.
How unified cloud communications prevent innovation barriers
In the first post in our Culture of Innovation series, we discussed the three key prerequisites for building an organization that is positioned for progress: employee experience and satisfaction, sufficient time for focusing on innovative progress, and tools that enable the sharing of ideas and information. The common pain points detailed here show how easily these endeavors can be derailed:
- Communication problems obstruct the flow of fresh ideas and make it difficult to align new ideas with company objectives
- Time wasted on inefficient processes reduces employees’ capacity to innovate
- Information silos make it harder to identify potential areas of innovation and impede execution
- Employees feel frustrated and demotivated to drive company innovation
As we said previously, innovation doesn’t happen by accident—it requires careful planning, an investment in tools and resources, ongoing evaluation of what’s working (and what isn’t), and commitment to staying the course.
While this may sound like a lofty goal, employing a unified communications platform can relieve these common barriers and support the components of a forward-thinking culture, essentially forming the backbone of a company’s innovation strategy.
- All-in-one communication tool sets consisting of team messaging, video, and phone allow for fluid, organic conversations and teamwork, from on-the-fly text chats to deeper video brainstorm sessions
- Flexible, scalable tools support all levels of communication from informal discussion between coworkers to one-on-ones with managers and business-unit or company-wide meetings, making it easier to communicate and reinforce goals and vision
- Integrations with other business apps such as Salesforce, Box, and Jira and other core apps reduce the friction of having to locate and securely share information as a distinct function from collaboration
- Ease of use and broad accessibility allow even geographically distributed tech companies to reap these benefits—and support ongoing innovation—routinely, making better communication, collaborating, and information sharing seamless and intrinsic.
Want to learn more about how unified communications platforms support all of the prerequisites of a culture of innovation—while also relieving common obstacles? Stay tuned for the next post in our Culture of Innovation series to learn how real-life RingCentral customers have used unified communications to unleash innovation within their organizations.
1 IDC: Future of Work, Worker Survey, December 2019
2 IDC: Future of Work, Worker Survey, December 2019
3 IDC: Future of Work, Worker Survey, December 2019
Originally published Dec 09, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022