There's something you should know about the agile process: It's inherently disruptive. It relies on discarding processes and procedures that yield mediocre, plodding results. It favors speed, flexibility and out-of-the-box thinking.
If you think about it, innovation is really the raison d'être for the agile process. But how does having an agile process lead to innovation?
1. Prioritizing doing, rather than discussing.
The agile process is nothing if not empirically based, and that means competing methods of development were carefully measured against it.
It turns out that we spend way, way, way more time talking about doing things than we actually spend doing them…at least, that can be the case in traditional approaches to projects.
When you move away from tedious meetings that exhaustively cover every possible aspect of a project in favor of brief, focused stand-up meetings, then your staff can actually get started accomplishing work, rather than talking about accomplishing work.
Innovation can be smothered by approaches that focus on checking off boxes rather than on developing the best product. An agile process prioritizes outcomes over a strict adherence to a plan.
2. Getting right to customers.
Agile development doesn't spend years exhaustively researching all the possible permutations and work up an absolutely perfect model, complete with full functionality. In fact, it's the opposite. An agile process relies on quick sprints of work, beginning with a minimum viable product that immediately goes out to customers for feedback.
The agile process is endlessly iterative, meaning it's perpetually being refined, redeveloped and pushed out for customer input. What does this have to do with innovation? Only everything!
An agile business model rewards thoughtful development that can adapt to new influences, trends and consumer needs. Its essence is innovation.
Rigidity is seen as a flaw in the agile process. While inviting customer input may yield unexpected insight and unanticipated changes, that insight may well be critical to a successful product or service.
When you bring your customers into your creative process, you're casting your net wider for inspiration, pulling in more diverse viewpoints that are fueled by different needs. Since meeting customer needs is really the whole point of producing goods and services, the agile process positions you for innovative, customer-centered development.
3. Eliminating micromanagement.
Using the agile process is pretty much the opposite of top-down development. Instead of a boss-on-high telling subordinates “You must do this," there's a flexible, responsive team saying “We can do this."
In an agile company, you have workers who feel personally invested in and rewarded by the process of creating awesome stuff. It's not a staff waiting around for a lukewarm “Attaboy." An agile business runs on the power of meaningful, focused collaboration.
And there's no room (and no need) for micromanagement in the agile process.
I'm talking about serious disruption here.
4. Harnessing the power of democracy.
Most of the time, when a company introduces a new initiative, it's rolled out from the top down. The CEO tells everyone how great it will be and lays out objectives, complete with a roadmap of how to get to the finish line.
That's not how things get done in an agile business. Priorities and strategies are devised by the folks who will actually be doing the work. And it's a genuine collaboration.
Why does collaboration matter so much? Because it folds in special talents from across a range of skillsets. You might have IT, HR, customer service and sales all working together to develop a plan that factors in needs spanning the entire company.
When your employees devise strategies, they may be more invested in success.
5. Evaluating constantly.
One of the hallmarks of the agile process is that it doesn't necessarily have a clear starting and ending point. In fact, in some ways being agile means constant development and redevelopment. Assessing the success of your offering is important, and finding metrics that offer genuine insight is essential.
Whether you use surveys to invite customer input or you A/B test two versions of a new product, using the insights you gain to refine and improve your offering is part of the agile process.
Sure, the agile process requires flexibility. It requires a mindset that values diverse perspectives and is willing to embrace unconventional methods. It may feel uncomfortable. It may seem chaotic.
But it can also lead to innovation.
Read more articles on innovation.