Culture of Innovation

If you decide to do innovation you mostly will not do it. Innovation can not be a planned activity. You can’t just be innovative from tomorrow. You just don’t do innovation. Innovation is a mindset, a habit and often nature of organization and its people. It lies in culture of organization.

Steve Jobs once mentioned in an interview —

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. It’s not about the money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”
— Steve Jobs, in Fortune, November 9, 1998

In this post I will talk about how we foster a culture of innovation.

An atmosphere of learning

Human mind loves learning. From top to bottom everyone in A.I (Arvind Internet) has high cravings for learning. Being an omni-channel SaaS platform, we face unique challenges every day. Immense learning comes from solving customer problems, executions, scaling technology and building products from scratch. It is this thing, that makes our day at A.I.

We also constantly seek what new technologies, concepts and solutions are being used across the world. For this, we created forums and programs that create opportunities for org-wise learning. Listing some of them below:

  • Tech Blogs — We aggregate RSS feeds from popular technology blogs. Here is the list of feeds if you want to use. Articles posted on these blogs come straight to our inboxes. This has helped us big time in knowing great architectures and solutions built by organizations. Keeping updated about new technology developments and being receptive to news ideas from all corners.
  • Meet ups — Nothing beats meeting people with similar interest. Meet ups not only provides a great way to catch up on new stuffs but also we get to know smart people. We organize meet ups at A.I office. Do follow us on meetup group —Omni Channel and checkout previous meetups at our office. Some of the meet up groups our engineers regularly attend are listed here.
  • Tech Talks — We share our learning, experiments through tech talk sessions. We also invite people from other companies into our tech talks. In one recent tech talk we had an engaging session from Samik Raychaudhuri, director of Data Sciences Group at [24]7.ai, on big data and personalization using machine learning. We had posted details about it here

Freedom to experiment

We encourage engineers to learn and experiment with upcoming technologies, concepts and frameworks. For example — We adopted Kubernetes at very early stage. After knowing the capabilities of Kafka as message broker we migrated from RabbitMQ to Kafka in most of our data pipelines. 
Our motto — Explore, learn, experiment and adopt if suitable. It works!

Hire great people

We consistently seek-out highest quality talent who are not only skilled but also motivated to take on challenges. Who don’t mind failures and rather learn from it. We believe skill and will both are equally important. We have people from some of the well known companies of world. It’s a great atmosphere.

Craving for doing better

We don’t believe in building “me too” solution, but rather focus on real customer problems. We constantly ask this question — “How do we make it better?” Best innovations happen when you compete with yourself. Recently, we had been awarded Best “Omni channel Experience” by Economic Times.

Innovations from Grass-roots level

When you are consumers of the products you are building, lots of new product ideas come from top to grass-roots level. Some of the well known products at Google (Gmail, Google maps, Google news and even AdSense) were built by Google engineers in their free time.

We encourage employees to think and prototype new product ideas. We have a forum where we discuss newly submitted ideas and brainstorm on their productization. We call this forum — “AIdea”. This forum has participation from various verticals of the org. We got several brilliant ideas from AIdea. One of the ideas submitted here, actually resolved a very big problem with store operations.

Store visits

Store visits are conducted every month, where employees visit stores, see how the product is being used in store. This is very handy piece. You get to know — How your product is being used by people on the field, what experiences they have, Are they really using it correctly. What are their problems? I personally find this as most impacting learning exercise. Some of the best ideas we got were after visiting stores.

Reward and Recognize

Like every organization, we have rewards and recognition programs. These are done at various levels — Org level, Team level and peer level. While at org level, people are recognized for larger impacts, at team and peer level one can shout out for individuals. e.g. In our daily standups we recognize someone who did something outstanding previous day. I found this very effective as people are applauded on-spot by peers. This creates lots of bonding.

Wrapping up

Not only organizations, innovation also forms basis of societies and civilizations. Wrapping up this post with this excellent quote from Jobs

Creativity is often about connecting experiences we have and create new things. Creative people have more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences.

This is the question I ask myself everyday — “Do I want to die collecting wealth, properties etc OR do I want to build stuffs that could impact several people’s lives. If your answer is latter, please join us. We are hiring — check this out.