Business

Traction Part 1

Imagine an operating system (OS) that didn’t work: applications are glitchy at best, files become corrupted or seemingly disappear, and, to make matters worse, it’s prone to viruses due to the lack of security in the system.

Basically, you can’t move forward because the broken OS prevents you from accomplishing any tasks.

In many ways, each business has its own OS. Unfortunately, in many of those businesses’, profits have stalemated, growth has stopped, people either don’t follow through or move in a different direction, and you, as the owner, are losing control of your business’ direction. The Company’s OS is broken and needs some major debugging.

This quarter, we’re reading Traction by Gino Wickman, which introduces the “Entrepreneurial Operating System” (EOS) – a process that establishes the basis for a functioning, focused, and forward-thinking company, allowing the leaders to regain “traction” to direct the company. It delves into the science of a business by simplifying it into six core components. To learn more about the six components of EOS, click here.

As we’ve been reading, we’ve come across a lot of shared concepts from our previous books: candor, open and honest communication, and goal setting. However, Gino Wickman offers up two new ideas: vision and hiring the right people for the right seat.

Vision

Gino Wickman describes vision as, “clearly defining who and what your organization is, where it’s going and how it’s going to get there.”

We all know the proverbial statement, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra. Without a clearly defined goal in mind, you can’t direct your business. However, most leaders know where they want to go. The problem is the rest of the organization doesn’t.

The EOS process begins by establishing a company’s framework, including their core values, core focus, and yearly plans to guide the company. These tools are posted online here.

This concept isn’t new. If you build a solid foundation, the rest of your company will naturally follow suit. Establishing and communicating your vision will clearly define where the company is headed and each employee’s role in that process.

The Right People in the Right Seat

Establishing your core values and focus has a side effect. A clear vision not only defines who you are and where you’re going, it also reveals who you’re not, potentially exposing departments, products, and people who don’t fit.

This is a complex subject, considering every individual has unique strengths, passions, and individual core values – none of which defines them as good or bad, right or wrong. Every company, however, has a culture, and if an employee doesn’t mesh with that culture, it becomes a burden on the company and, often, a burden on the individual themselves.

Gino Wickman breaks this down into three scenarios:

  1. Right person, wrong seat.
  2. Wrong person, right seat.
  3. Wrong person, wrong seat.

It’s not an easy decision, but when it comes to the long haul of a company, having those who embrace the company’s ideas and direction and putting them in the seat where they will exceed will pay dividends to growing your company. And that’s the real takeaway – think long term, not short.

In short, everyone needs to be on the same page with the company’s ideals and where it’s going. With that vision and focus, the company will make the decisions that will project it into the future.

We’ll continue to read Traction through the rest of the quarter, but if you would like to learn more about Traction and read the first chapter, visit https://www.eosworldwide.com/traction Stay tuned for our Virtual Book Club Meeting where we’ll discuss in greater detail our favorite lessons-learned and takeaways.


At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here.

Creativity, Inc. - Pt. 2

For our 2016 Quarter 4 Book Club, we read Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Disney Animation. Today, we’ll explore our favorite takeaways from our Virtual Book Club Meeting, including topics about fear, taking risks, and Brain Trusts.

Brittany W. started off by saying, “The concept of failure is a good thing in the form of iterative trial and error. We can fail our way to a solution. The example of scientists and experimentation drives it home.”

We understand the importance of experimenting and trying new things – it’s how we innovate and impact the lives of our Inflowees and customers; but with experimentation comes failure and the need to accept failure.

But accepting failure as “part of the process” is hard, especially when failure often goes hand-in-hand with lost dollars. Ryan H. discussed how we can disentangle measuring success from financials:

“Most companies push revenue and profitability targets to their employees. We don’t, because we want our employees to focus on long-term goals, not short-term. People tend to make bad choices when money is involved.”

That’s only the beginning of changing our views on failure though. The truth is, everyone makes mistakes. We know this, but instead of admitting our failures, we sweep them under the rug. To be free from the fear of failure, we have to feel safe admitting our failures; and for a company to feel safe, as Cris B. put it, “Admitting you failed has to come from the top, down. If leadership is open about the mistakes they’ve made and how they fixed it, it gives the rest of the team the comfort to know they can make mistakes, embrace them, and work to improve them.”

Nikho R. added to this point, discussing when he’s had to write large technical documents and submit them for peer review:

“Often times, you put your blood and sweat in a project, and when you put it up for peer-review, you have to leave your ego at the door. When my work gets criticized, I’ve learned to not take it personally. The candor and perspective you get from others can make the project so much greater than it was before.”

And that’s another big take-away: there are no “finished” products, only versions.

Continuing this line of thought, we began discussing “Brain Trusts” – a term used to refer to a group of individuals, generally of vastly different roles, who come together to address a specific problem, brainstorm ideas, and offer feedback to the project lead.

In our discussion, we began with a scenario an Inflowee was working through: “How do we develop meaningful culture for our teams out in the field when we have limited direct exposure to their lives? How do we make sure the things we do are important to them and not what we think are important?”

From here, the conversation got interesting because, in a sense, we became a Brain Trust. Joe H., one of our Engineers who was recently stationed in Kuwait, offered his perspective:

“Our internal [communications] are a great starting point. Having those casual conversations is what allows us to get to know each other better.” Joe then went a level deeper:

“If you understand what motivates a person, you’ll understand what they do and why they do it. Having open communication like this will bridge the gap.” From there, the whole team began to chip in – suggestions for how we bridge that gap: video chats, talking about interests, presentations over subjects we’re experts in, and even Inflowee profile “baseball cards.”

Regardless of the idea – feasible or not – we engaged in exactly what we read: a Brain Trust where ideas flowed, concepts were explored, and problems were tackled. It’s about taking the time to stop, recognize the problem, and work to overcome it as a team.

For the whole conversation, listen to the audio from our meeting here.

There is so much more to be said about Creativity, Inc. and our discussion over it. Our goal, as is with each book we read, is to improve the way we work, broaden the way we think, and ultimately, build a company and culture that genuinely and actively “Makes it Matter.”

At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here

Creativity, Inc. - Pt. 1

Talk to an Inflowee and you’ll hear the word “culture” a lot. The reason is, we’re obsessed with creating an environment where every Inflowee’s voice is heard. We’re all stakeholders in this company, responsible for taking care of our culture. However, our culture is constantly growing, constantly changing, and in order to sustain it with our growth, it calls for research, experimentation, and a whole lot of love and care to develop a meaningful and sustainable impact within our company.

But culture doesn’t happen by accident – it is designed. Culture is an active process of “try-fail-iterate” that takes simple ideas and molds them into functional and impactful components of our work lives. To learn more about this, we’ve been reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull for this quarter’s Book Club.

Creativity, Inc. is the story of how Pixar went from a small startup to a sustainable, industry-leading animation studio, while maintaining its culture of passion, story-telling, and candor.

We’re only a hundred pages in, and already we’ve learned a lot. Here are some of the key highlights we’ve gained:

Candor & Trust:

Effective problem solving requires brainstorming in an open and honest environment where problems and solutions are discussed as a team. We do this by letting go of our own biases and focusing on problems as a whole.

This type of honest communication builds trust. When we trust each other, barriers like hierarchy, personal motives, and preconceived notions become less of an issue, and instead, generates a team mentality united by a singular goal.
 

Walking the Walk & Talking the Talk:  

Companies tend to attribute words to themselves, like their commitment to “excellence” or “quality.” However, their actions don’t always align with these statements.

We too have a phrase, “Make it Matter,” and while we strive to impact the lives of our Inflowees and customers, we similarly run the risk of proclaiming we do something without following through. It’s challenging to build trust and a family atmosphere with a globally dispersed team, and unless we’re able to, we’ll also attribute meaningless words to ourselves. Which is why we’re constantly working to bridge the gap between all our Inflowees through our company culture programs.

Inflow, just like all of us, is a work-in-progress. That means each Inflowee can question, collaborate, problem solve, and innovate, making Inflow better than the day before; and by doing this, we’ll be successful in what we say we do: “Make it Matter.”

This only scratches the surface; there are a more lessons in those hundred pages, and still more to learn in the coming chapters. In our next post, we’ll discuss some of our favorite lessons-learned and the applications we can make in our daily actions.

At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here

How to be a Great Programmer

Author: Cody J., Inflow Software Engineer

This article is designed to show how software engineering (SE) is different from computer science (CS), and what is needed to become a good programmer, regardless of the programming path chosen.

First, let’s identify what a software engineer is supposed to do. Helpfully, Wikipedia provides a number of definitions from several different sources; basically, however, it comes down to using engineering principles in the development of software.

How does this compare to computer science? CS is figuring out how to make a computer do something, specifically how to program software to do a variety of things with computers. It also covers the theoretical aspects of computing, allowing the CS graduate to develop new solutions to computing problems.

Where scientists are pushing the boundaries of knowledge by designing and testing theories, engineers take what is already known and do great things. Engineering takes current scientific principles to design and build “something”; in SE, that “something” is a computer program.

Basically, SE takes the programming aspect of CS and doubles down on it. Engineers need a broad scope of knowledge, and be able to incorporate a variety of different disciplines to create the final product. Scientists tend to focus on a narrow, but deep, area of knowledge.

Another significant difference is that engineers typically earn degrees that are accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). This guarantees that graduates have a minimum level of engineering and applied science knowledge, much like having a technology certification. If you want to prove your ability, you can earn a variety of professional software development certifications from IEEE.

This comparison shows that, as an SE, you will need to know how to program but in a particular, applied manner. Recognize that your education only provides the groundwork for this; all a college education is supposed to do is provide a base level of knowledge and education about a subject so students can question the status quo and gain the skills to perform their own learning. During your education, you’ll only know the basic principles of your career field; it won’t be until you enter the job market that you will see how those principles are applied in the real world.

So, to the meat of the question: ”How do I improve my coding skills to be a great software programmer?” First, I recommend that you find something that you are passionate about that can be coded and use that as your motivation for learning to code better. Personally, I self-learned Python after learning C, C++, and Java in school; I hated those languages to the point where I didn’t want to be a programmer. But I still had a desire to learn how to program (my education didn’t really do that), so when I learned that Python was a good hobbyist language, I decided to try it.

Because I knew just reading books wasn’t going to keep me motivated to finish, my impetus for learning Python was to recreate an old table-top role playing game in electronic form. That simple end-goal kept me going when I didn’t understand what was going on or how to do something.

If you are like many college students, you probably haven’t done a lot of programming for personal projects; a lot of students I’ve met simply do the homework and cruise through the classes until they get their degree. The best ones, however, have a personal project that they use to practice what they have learned. Completing a homework assignment doesn’t necessarily mean you understand what is going on; when you are on your own, with no guidance, you have to really understand your code and figure out how to best write the program and troubleshoot it.

If you can’t think of anything for yourself, then ask friends or family if they have any programming projects. This might be an even better option than a personal project, because now you have to work with a customer who may not know exactly what they want but is demanding anyways. This will help you learn how to deal with non-specific requirements, expansion of software requirements, and the basics of project management.

You can also look at participating in open-source projects that not only help you grow as a programmer, but will also teach you how to work with other programmers and the bureaucracy of coding projects. You’ll also gain experience in having other people reviewing your code and providing constructive criticism; some people find out that they don’t handle criticism very well and either learn to deal with it or find another profession.

Ultimately, being a better programmer means you have to understand how to program. I don’t consider myself a programmer by trade; I have a BS in Computer Engineering Technology, an MS in IT Management, and two years towards a Ph.D. in Information Systems. The only reason I really know how to program is because I wrote my own Python programming book series. Despite the lack of formal Python training, this knowledge was sufficient enough to lead to two professional programming jobs and two instructor jobs.

To write those books, I had to delve into how programs are written and how the language works, yet, even now, I’m still learning. Every job I’ve had, whether as a programmer or instructor, has taught me more about different programming aspects than I knew before.

Being a great programmer, regardless of whether you are a software engineer or computer scientist, is a process of continually learning how to be better, building upon the knowledge you have in order to make new things. As long as you have confidence in your abilities and you continue to learn, you will do alright.

At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here

Programming for Managers

Author: Cody J., Inflow Software Engineer

Should everyone know how to program? To the extent of having the equivalent of a computer science degree, no. However, a basic level of knowledge will serve many people well, especially managers.

This idea isn’t new; the Huffington Post wrote about it a few years ago, and others wrote about it even earlier. The main reason that people should understand the basics of programming is because of the invasiveness of computers; everything is computerized nowadays and will only increase, especially as devices are connected to the Internet.

Being computer illiterate should not be considered a badge of honor; too many people, from doctors to politicians and beyond, seem to take pride in not knowing the basic functionality of computers. While writing full-blown applications isn’t something everyone needs to know, managers (especially in the tech world), should know the basics. That way, they can feel more comfortable when talking to the “tech-heads”, as well as being able to have a better understanding when developers talk about how hard something is and how much time it will take.

So, what should managers know about code? Here’s a brief list of concepts that will at least help them understand the lingo:

      Data structures: these are logical structures (typically) built into the programming language. They allow data to be organized in an efficient manner for ease of programming. Some languages have more primitive structures that can be used by programmers to make their own data structures.

Each language has its own data structure implementation, though they may be similar across different languages. For example, many languages have the capability of mapping a keyword to a value (each value can be retrieved by simply supplying the keyword); these structures may be called associative arrays, hash tables, dictionaries, etc., but they all provide the same capabilities.

      Conditional statements: Most frequently seen as “if/else” statements in code, conditionals allow the programmer to branch the code flow depending on certain conditions. For example, if “condition A” is true, then perform “action A”; else perform “action B”.

      Loops: Loops simply repeat a block of code a certain number of times until a set stop condition is reached. Once reached, control returns to the main program.

Loops can be set to repeat a certain number of times (count-controlled), to continue until a particular condition is met (condition-controlled), and (in some programming languages) loops can operate over a collection of values in a data structure (collection-controlled).

Infinite loops are generally considered a bad programming practice, as they will run forever until forced to stop, typically by user intervention. However, there are times when infinite loops are necessary for operation, such as an event-monitoring program that looks for and processes events (like an operating system), or an interactive program that continually waits for user input before doing something.

      Exceptions: Exception handling is simply dealing with errors in code. When a program acts in an unexpected manner, an error is generated, i.e. an exception to the normal program flow. Programmers can add code to a program to catch these exceptions, allowing the program to continue functioning without crashing (hopefully).

Obviously, not every anomalous condition can be accounted for (which can result in program and system crashes), but programmers work hard to identify as many error-causing conditions as possible. Frequently, these errors are automatically captured by the software and sent back to the programmers. These notifications are used to create new patches for the software.

      Functions: Sometimes called subroutines, functions are frequently the workhorses of programs. Essentially, they branch off from the normal logic flow in a program to perform specific actions, then return control back to the main program flow. Functions are simply containers of code-logic that can be used multiple times within a program, simply by using the function’s name.

The main benefit is that, without functions, you have to copy and paste the same code blocks multiple times to make your program work, i.e. your program runs from start to finish in a straight line, so to repeat a particular action, you’ll have to manually repeat it every time. If you ever have to revise the program, going to one location to make the change is much easier than finding all the different locations if you copy and pasted it.

When used in classes (explained below), functions are called methods to signify it is being used with objects.

      Classes: Object-oriented programming (OOP) is one of the most common paradigms currently used in programming. Most OOP languages uses classes as their main data structure.

The main idea behind classes is that they can be used to create a generic base class, which can then be subclassed to create specific objects. For example, you could have a generic class of Vehicle. This base class has parameters that define a vehicle, e.g. the number of wheels, the type of frame, number of doors, etc. Using this Vehicle class, you could make subclasses that inherit from Vehicle, such as Bicycle, Car, Pickup Truck, Airplane, etc.

When you make a subclass, you simply provide the details for the new object as input values for the generic parameters. For example, for a Car subclass, you give it “4 wheels”, “4 doors”, “steel frame”, etc. For a Bicycle, you give it “2 wheels”, “0 doors”, “aluminum frame”, etc.

The idea behind classes is that they can be easily reused or, via inheritance, they can be extended into specific subclasses. They also let you model real-world items more accurately. In short, a class lets you create a basic template and default behavior for something, when can then be used as a foundation for more specific changes.

      Unit tests: Testing of software is an important part of quality assurance, ensuring that the application is ready for use without any significant bugs. Unit testing is designed to create a test situation for each block of code; the code block could be an entire program, but is more often the components of the program, such as a function or a class.

A variety of techniques are used to create unit tests and, ideally, each unit test is separate from the others to ensure modularity of the code blocks. The benefits of testing are: detection of problems early in the lifecycle, ease of future modifications and integration into larger programs, and support of software documentation and design.

There are obviously a number of other topics to be covered in programming, some more advanced than others. Hopefully, however, this is enough to give non-programmers some insight into what is involved in writing software and why it may take longer to get a project finished. There are a number of tutorials available on the Internet, as well as boot camps and actual academic degrees, but understanding the basics should make the life of a manager easier. Programming can be helpful in automating a number of tasks, which, in itself, should encourage people to pick up the basics so they can get to the more enjoyable parts of life.

At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here

Innovator's DNA

Author: Mason C., Inflow Technical Writer

“Young man! When I say clean your room, I mean clean it NOW!”

“Why?” A common response, at the time, for a four-year-old me to my mother’s command.

“Because I said so!” An equally common response to my inquiry. Now, whether it was because that reasoning was sufficient for my curious mind or that I knew there would be DIRE consequences for disobeying my mother, I would ultimately comply.

To be fair, I wasn’t really interested as to why I had to do it – I just wanted to annoy my mother – but the point is I took her “reasoning” on merit. I didn’t question her further. I didn’t ask if there was a better method of cleaning the room, or if there was a way to prevent a room from even getting dirty in the first place. To my knowledge, rooms got messy and then you have to clean them. That’s the cycle of life. “That’s just how it is.”

Is it, though? How many of us actually pause to evaluate whether what we’re doing is the most effective way? How many of us, instead, “do” because it’s “what’s been done?” Look at history, and even our present day, and you’ll see people like Gandhi, whose revolutionary and peaceful ideals began to transform and break down the social barriers in India; Steve Jobs, whose innovations within portable audio players not only changed the way in which we listen to music but also how we purchase it; or Larry Page and Sergey Brin who, together, have provided a means to access the world’s collective knowledge through Google.

Clearly these individuals were not satisfied by the status quo. If you look at each one of them (and many more throughout all industries) you’ll realize that each one has something in common – something that, because of this, has led them to develop products, services, or ideas that have revolutionized either their business market or even the world. They’re all Innovators.

This quarter, for our Inflow Book Club, we read “The Innovator’s DNA.” It’s the study on some of the world’s greatest innovators and the make-up of their proverbial DNA: Associating, Questioning, Observing, Networking, and Experimenting. Through this book, we discovered each of the five discovery skills, along with the techniques to implement and practice them each day in our work place.

The Five Discovery Skills: Questioning, Observing, Networking, Experimenting, and Associating

The Five Discovery Skills: Questioning, Observing, Networking, Experimenting, and Associating

Associating

Associating is the ability to make surprising connections across areas of knowledge, industries, and even geographies. It’s through the culmination of the other four skills that makes associating possible. The authors often refer to “T-shaped” individuals: those who hold a deep well of knowledge in one area but actively acquire knowledge across different subjects. An example of this is Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay. He was consulting for a company who was having issues getting fresh produce to the consumers (about 1/3 of it would spoil before reaching them). Omidyar asked, “What about the post office? Doesn’t the post office go to everybody’s house six times a week? Why don’t we just mail the head of lettuce?” He used his wellspring of knowledge of shipping from eBay and applied it to another industry – this is associating. Grant it, Omidyar did say that this was probably a bad idea, but it’s an example of using our knowledge from other industries and applying to the problem at hand.

Besides, we now have things like Amazon Pantry, Shipt, and Instacart, which allow me to do just that. I can buy all my groceries without ever going to the grocery store and have it show up at my front door.

Joe H., our Electrical Engineer had a great suggestion on increasing our ability to associate:

Questioning

Whereas association is the culmination of the other four discovery skills, questioning is the creative catalyst that instigates the innovative process; it challenges the status quo and is the key to generating powerful solutions.

As children, we seem to question everything. As we grow, however, whether it’s because we become afraid of looking dumb or that, through school, we’re always expected to have an answer, we seem to stop asking questions and instead are content with the way things are. Emily B., our Human Interest Manager, brought up a good point about our industry in particular:

That’s not just the Government Contracting industry either – there is a serious lack of questioning throughout all industries and even in our daily lives. To be fair, we’re creatures of habit; we get in our routines, are taught to do things in a certain way, and we get comfortable in the status quo of society. Everything seems fine – optimal even – but without taking the time to start asking “why,” we can never break through our self-created walls and explore the unexplored. Elise H. and Nikho R., made comments in this regard:

Questioning is the creative catalyst from which all innovation begins to flow. Every successful innovator was able to create something new because they, as Ratan Tata (creator of the cheapest car, the Tata Nano) stated, they “Question[ed] the unquestionable.”

Observing

Déjà vu. We’ve all experienced this sensation before – the sensation that we’ve done the very thing before – but Déjà vu is always passive. It just happens without you actively seeking it. Vuja de, on the other hand, is the opposite – it’s the sensation of seeing something for the first time, despite having seen it many times before. Vuja de is an action. You can’t come across it by accident, you have to be observing: watching, intently, the world around you.

Ratan Tata, chairman at Ratan Group, experienced this feeling one rainy day in India. He had seen families riding scooters all throughout his life, but on this particular day, his heart sank as he watched a father and his family riding, his eldest son standing behind the handlebars, his wife sitting sidesaddle behind him, holding a younger child in her lap, soaked by the rain. Ratan Tata asked himself, “Why can’t this family own a car and avoid the rain?” Because of this experience, he then developed the cheapest car in the world, providing safer transportation for the middle class of India. Without this experience, the car would simply not exist.

But it requires actively looking. Peter Leschak wrote once, “All of us are watchers – of television, of time clocks, of traffic on the freeway – but few are observers. Everyone is looking, not many are seeing.” The point is, there is inspiration all around us: new ideas, new experiences, new sights. All we have to do is start watching it all and innovation will follow suit.

Networking

If you’re in a professional field, you know what networking is. What you probably don’t know is that there are two types of networking: Delivery-Driven Networking and Discovery-Driven Networking. Delivery-driven networking is what you and I do, typically. We seek out those who are like us or in influential positions in order to access resources, sell ourselves or the company, and further our career. A Discovery-driven networker, on the other hand, seeks people who are diverse, with different backgrounds, in order to learn new, surprising things, gain different perspectives, and test ideas.

What’s so powerful about this type of networking is the ability to expand our understanding into realms we’ve previously knew little about or nothing at all. The pooled wealth of mankind’s knowledge is immense – people have experienced things, overcome struggles, laughed and cried, spent years in study or honing their craft – by tapping into their pool of knowledge, you grow your own and gain valuable insight into another person’s world.

A practical takeaway from “idea” networking is when you’re faced with a problem, ask yourself, “Who else has faced a problem like this before?” Then go talk to them. Another person’s experience could very well be your solution.

Experimenting

While the other four discover skills are good for gathering information about the past and present, experimenting is what provides you with the data of what might work best in the future. There are several types of experimenting:

  • Exploration: the trying of new experiences despite their being little to no direct connection between the activity and the deliverable at hand.
  • Deconstruction: the taking apart of products, processes, and ideas to better understand how they work, often leading to new ideas for how things might work better.
  • Prototyping: the testing of a product or idea through a short run pilot or small scale prototype to gain valuable data that aids in better understanding the marketability and potential shortcomings of the product.

 It all comes down to taking risks. As the Mythbusters religiously say, “Failure is always an option,” and with experimenting, failure is, in fact, an inevitability. However, it comes down to what you do with that failure. So often, we look at failure as, well, just that: a failure; a waste of time. Instead, experimenting, and ultimately failure, shouldn’t been seen as mistakes, but rather opportunities to learn and apply that knowledge to the next experiment, because, as the author states, “experimenting is often the only way to generate the data required to ultimately achieve success.”

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Each discovery skill is pertinent for an innovator’s success and plays a pivotal role in their “DNA”. This DNA, unlike our physical DNA, is not bound by genetics. Sure, some people are naturally more curious than others or have a knack to go out and experience new things or talk with different people, but when it comes to creativity, “nurture trumps nature as far as creativity goes.” These are skills that have to be actively exercised, or else they become weak.

But that’s the beauty of it. Innovation isn’t some guy being in the right place at the right time. It’s not about having some “gift” from birth or knowing the right people to get you into the doors we mortals dream about stepping through. No, innovation resides in all hands; it is only restricted by our willingness to explore, question, and then do.

Begin to explore your work place, observe your coworkers and customers, and question everything. If you come across something, a process or product, that could be improved, take the steps to do it. Yes, it’s scary – innovation is filled with uncertainty, but ask yourself, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

“Care about something enough to do something about it.” – Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Inc. said. We possess the ability to change the world around us, whether that’s by affecting our immediate coworkers, improving the company as a whole, or, potentially, impacting the whole world. We won’t always know what to do, how to do it, or who to involve to make it happen, but perhaps the greatest piece of advice was offered by the founder of Skype, Niklas Zennström:

“Screw it, let’s do it.”

So let’s do it – let’s make the world a better place.

 

Learn more about "The Innovator's DNA" here.

At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here