CTO: Overcoming innovation fatigue in the organization

July 27, 2022 | 5 Mins Caitlyn Simons

The chief technology officer at any organization is often tasked with being the person to consistently fuel innovation, this means constantly ensuring that there is no stagnation, and forward momentum is ever present. This can be a seriously hard thing to do in the long term.

Fatigue can kick in at any level and at any project, no matter how inspiring or fulfilling some form of digital transformation initiatives may be, there will always be a point in the project where there is a risk of getting stuck or stagnating.

There can be a number of different reasons for this, and every CTO will be quite focused on overcoming any levels of innovation fatigue that appear in their organization. In this article we will take a look at a few of the ways a modern-day CTO can attempt to break through the fatigue and keep momentum going in the quest for innovative new technologies, products, and services as well as a digital culture inside the organization.

Keep explaining the vision

A simple thing in theory, but if phrased in the right way and delivered with the right level of consistency, simply communicating the vision over and over again can have a positive impact. It can remind employees and key stakeholders in any project just why they are doing it in the first place. Projects by nature can become complex and messy, and can often begin to spiral out of scope, so much so, that it is easy to lose sight of the core reasons and vision behind the project when it started.

A CTO can have regular “back to basics” communications, reminding everybody of the core values behind the innovation or project, the reasons why they are doing it, what the successful project will look like and how it will make everything better. For example, with an innovative digital transformation project, explaining again the benefits of creating or undergoing this digital transformation is something that will benefit and impact everyone involved. This strategy can be especially useful in times of stagnation, when things are getting stuck or key contributors are displaying behaviors that suggest they have innovation and change fatigue or are struggling with motivation.

The vision and underlying reason are core to everything about the project so there is nothing wrong with consistently reiterating it or repeating it, as it could be key for achieving innovation success. Stating the obvious is often overlooked, but it can also serve as a useful reminder, a re-emphasis of the core reasons why innovation matters and the powerful potential that an innovation driven project can have in terms of positive impact and company results. This can also help to keep motivation levels up among the employees, if they are being reminded on what the end result of this innovation project will be and can fully understand the benefits that they will all gain from it, then it could be easier to keep all stakeholders involved productive and avoid any sort of fatigue or even burnout.

Attract the right talent

It can sometimes be a good idea for a CTO to wait until the midpoint of a project to introduce new talent. This can be quite delicate and strategic but if timed right, can help deliver a fresh new impetus into a stagnating project and can help in conquering innovation fatigue.

Introducing a talented new team member or important stakeholder at a point where fatigue factors might be increasing, can help alleviate this and open innovation up with their introduction of original ideas and fresh new concepts, something that can help the CTO really kickstart the enthusiasm and organizational skills again to get things back on track and moving in the right direction. Introducing a new project team member after the project has already been underway for some time can also help with the other employees’ experience on the project: if they are starting to feel fatigued and stuck creatively, by having someone new working with them then perhaps it can motivate them to bring some more energy to the project and start thinking from a different perspective.

Introducing this new talent at the right time is crucial, look at the planning and the key milestones, where would an introduction of fresh new talent benefit the project the most? What specific skill set, background or experience could really make a difference? These are the questions a chief technology officer could ask when looking to recruit a new individual for an innovation-based project and may be an important part of their decision-making responsibilities.

It is a delicate balancing act, and a CTO needs to be sure that they have the right people in place at the right time, but they also need to make sure that they don’t overstaff or understaff a project. Introducing a new set of skills at the midway point or consistently attracting new talent with something different and unique to offer could be just what an innovation project needs to get it back on track and heading towards the finish line.

Analyze the competition

One thing that will definitely result in slowed momentum or stagnation is the realization by all stakeholders involved that they are a little bit behind the curve and the competition has already beaten them to the punch with the innovation of new products or product development.

Somebody else out there in the market has taken their idea and evolved it to another level and already brought it to market or else is really far along in their project. This can be a real momentum killer and a bit demoralizing.

CTOs therefore need to keep a close eye on the competition and see what is happening out there in the market, talk to their network, attend events, and get a general feel for what the competition are doing. The goal basically is to make sure they are not simply duplicating something that is almost already out there in the market or that a vast range of competitors are also interested in.

While innovation is not solely about being first to market, those who get there first are at a distinct advantage. So, being first with an original concept can really help, this research needs to be done early but it is also an ongoing process. No CTO wants to feel that their innovation project is starting to look like a copy of somebody who has already got there first, or it’s simply a pale imitation of something that was launched a few years back. Keeping a close eye on the competition and the market should help the CTO get a firm understanding of what is already out there, what area the competition is focused on and where the gaps are for creating something new, original, and innovative. Reporting this kind of information back to the project team and wider business leaders is also important so that everyone in the organization is up to date with what is going on.

Maintaining high levels of motivation and creativity, while also avoiding feelings of fatigue, can be a challenge for chief technology officers when it comes to new innovation projects. But there are things that they can do to help avoid such issues, always reminding their team of the vision and goals of the project, keeping an eye on what the competition is doing and also bringing in new talent to the project at the right time, can all be strategies that could help CTOs overcome innovation fatigue.

 

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