We believe there is something unique at every business that will ignite the fuse of innovation.

CollaborationEarlier this summer, our thought leadership team issued an open challenge to CapTechers to form teams and use their creativity to come up with demonstrations of natural language technology. I want to talk a little bit about why we did it, what we learned, and most importantly how you can apply these self-organizing principles to your organization.

Before this challenge, there was an anti-pattern we were falling into:

  1. We would have an emerging technology we wanted to explore.
  2. We would go to the same handful of people we always go to, because they always delivered.
  3. Those people would be overworked because everyone is going to them.
  4. We would define this work in a narrow scope.
  5. We waited for it to be done.

This old model worked when we were just trying to complete specific objectives. We needed a way to leverage the creativity and talents of all our employees. We were doing things the same way every time without considering why. People learn about their peers much more quickly than leadership can, and they can self-identify who they want on their team. Were at a size now it’s hard to know the skills of every person. We need a way to tap into the creative and technical talent of all CapTechers.

So this time, instead, we opened it up to whoever wanted to participate. We let our workers define their own problems as long as it fit in this domain. We let them use their own technology as long as it fit in this space. And we let them self-organize their teams, as long as each practice area was represented. And these teams competed in a little friendly competition.

Open things up for enthusiasm and creativity

The quotes we are getting from the teams back to their office leads is that this is one of the most exciting and challenging things I’ve experienced at CapTech. These are people who really love technology and want to rise to these challenges; we saw far more participation than we thought we would. The other thing was that people were excited about the chance to present to leadership and hone some of their non-technical skills.  

These teams also created solutions we wouldn’t have considered on our own or using our old paradigm. By leveraging people we didn’t know could do this, we got creative new solutions and we relaxed the people we were previously overburdening.

Coaching and Interdisciplinary Collaboration

The second thing we saw was this is a great way to reinforce coaching. It enabled everyone a chance to provide feedback on presentation style, on the business case, on the architecture. Plus, having teams made up of people with different skillsets allowed people the chance to learn and hone their abilities in a way they normally wouldn’t. So from a coaching perspective, it was a great way to provide valuable feedback.

The last benefit of the challenge, was now we have a whole new set of trained professionals and 4 working prototypes that we have been able to present to our clients. So, it wasn’t just about morale and team building—we got products to show for it. 

Ultimately, the biggest takeaway is that as your organization grows and changes you need to be constantly and consistently reevaluating why you do the things you do, as well as how you can change to leverage the creativity and curiosity of your employees. If you give people the opportunities to impress it’s likely they’ll step up to the challenge and your whole organization will benefit.  

About the Author

Vinnie Schoenfelder currently serves as CapTech's Chief Technology Officer with over 23 years of industry experience and 14 years working for CapTech. Vinnie's CTO role is externally facing, helping the organization define services, forge partnerships, and design solutions for our clients.