Innovation vs Stability

Toby MacLachlan, 23 November 2021

The paradox

When you’re a young company, one of the best bits of the job is the pace of change, innovation, disruption, and new ideas. As the company grows you take on new concerns, pesky things like revenue, clients, more staff, live systems… Essentially, you become more responsible.

As a company, everyone knows you have to innovate in order to succeed.  However, clients also demand stability, reliability, and predictability.  

So what is the solution to this paradox?

In doing one you sacrifice the other. It is possible to achieve perfect stability if one never changes or innovates.  And with a total focus on innovation, there would be little or no stability. 

The answer lies in finding the right balance for both business and clients. To ensure you continue to be at the cutting edge, even as a company grows, it is vital to continually test the boundary of innovation.  And that does mean occasionally putting a foot over the boundary and, to mixed metaphor, rocking the boat a bit.

In Ignite terms, this means trying new things as often as we can, and accepting that sometimes we might get it wrong and that it might have consequences (e.g. breaking some functionality or even some system downtime)

To avoid being sucked into a “stable” bureaucratic company system we must be sure to continually demystify the system itself, challenge assumptions, iterate and reflect. I usually hate buzzwords like these so I’ll break them down individually… 

Demystify the system – make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing. There should be no black boxes, closed loops, or sub-groups with mysterious priorities. 

Challenge assumptions – accept that there is no one right way of doing things, and make the time to try new things and fail in the process. 

Iterate – make regular changes, and make each change as small as possible. This speeds up the velocity of change and makes the effects of changes more apparent.

Reflect – always look for feedback on what could be done better, and use this to further iterate and challenge assumptions. 

Ignite is growing rapidly, and even as we do so we’ll try to live by these ideas to keep us right in the middle of the fine balance of innovation and stability.  

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