Building a Culture of Innovation

If you’re a product owner who’s working at a company that’s constantly building new products and features, but never really innovating, it’s time for a change.

When we create a culture of innovation, we can create products that go from ordinary to extraordinary! Learn some actionable ways that really work to build in innovation at your company.

Innovation Sprints


Let’s face it, if we’re filling our teams to the brim with deliverables and we’re running at a constant marathon pace to get everything done, there simply isn’t time for innovation. All too often we’re cranking out features and going so fast that quality diminishes and now everyone is working twice as hard to fix bugs or product defects.

So unless your team is one of the rare ones that only fills its cup partially full and plans time for innovation every sprint, it's just never going to happen.

Think about your own career and personal development. Most of us are too busy just getting our day jobs done to learn a new skill, experiment with new ideas or even think about our future.

One way to effectively build in innovation is through a dedicated innovation sprint. If your team does two week sprints, set aside one sprint a quarter where all the team does is discovery and learning—no new deliverables are allowed. As tempting as it may be to use this sprint to ‘catch up’ on product backlog items that didn’t get finished, it needs to be guarded and protected.

There are so many benefits to innovation such as speed-to-market, competitive advantage, employee satisfaction and customer delight. So while it may feel like an innovation sprint is costing you productivity, the short-term pain is definitely worth the long-term gain.

Test, Learn & Measure


By taking on the Lean approach of testing, learning & measuring, you can improve innovation. Before work begins, the team should write down:

  • What are we going to test?
  • What do we hope to learn?
  • How will we measure our success?

While this can be done at any point in time, it should be done often. It can be done in conjunction with a quarterly planning, as part of a minimally viable product or a specific feature you plan to release.

Let’s say you work for a company that sells health insurance and you’re looking at building a new appointment scheduling feature on an existing app. The team decides they are going to build a minimally viable version of the scheduling feature that only does very basic appointment setting.

  • They’re going to test how many existing customers book appointments through the app versus the website.
  • They hope to learn if this feature is worth investing more time and money on.
  • They will measure their success by seeing if 10 percent or more of appointments are made through the app over a 90-day period.

Encourage Failure


In order for the team to be willing to experiment, they need to know that failure is okay and that it’s part of the learning process. As their product owner, make sure you communicate the goals of learning as the highest priority, not getting everything exactly right the first time.

If management above you has a history of reprimanding people for failure, work with your Scrum Master to champion this new way of thinking. Explain the benefits that learning will give your team and how you’ll ultimately be able to give your customers a better product.

Innovation is one of the best ways to meet our customers’ ever-changing needs, yet so often we just don’t make the time for this type of learning and growth. By taking the time to innovate, test, learn and measure you’ll be quickly able to deliver products that your customers really want.