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7 minutes read

What You Need to Build an Award-Winning Product Team

By Robert Kazmi
By Robert Kazmi
7 minutes read

Here at Koombea, we’ve been known to win a few awards for our agency.

It’s always nice to have the recognition, but importantly, those awards represent our dedication to building a high-performing team which delivers top-quality work.

We didn’t set out to win awards, but we did set out to deliver the best experience possible for our clients and to create products that are truly innovative and well-designed. In our experience, creating an environment where excellence is an expectation and creativity thrives leads to the kind of outputs that will make a product team award-winning.

What does it take to get to that point? Here are our thoughts:

Create the right environment

“While many organizations focus on addressing problems, the most successful focus on raising the bar. One of the ways they do this is by creating a culture where innovation thrives. When this organizational strength is magnified, it can become a source of competitive advantage.”

The quote above is taken from a Forbes article by Scott Edinger entitled “Don’t Innovate. Create a Culture of Innovation.” Company culture plays a huge role in creating the right environment for creativity to thrive and innovation to be stimulated.

What attributes help to create that innovative environment?

A collaborative ecosystem

We believe innovation is a team effort. Everyone might sometimes have their own “eureka” moment, but ultimately, these are allowed to thrive through collaboration and lively participation across the team.

Pulling your best resources from across the team or across departments allows you to expand your capabilities and add knowledge and experience that wouldn’t be there if everyone worked separately. It’s about creative synergies which fuel innovation.

This means that even the most senior team member will get involved with projects. Sometimes within corporate structures, you find that silos are created with management being segregated into their own league – why not bring that knowledge and experience to the table? Hierarchical barriers can often be a drain on innovation.

Emphasis on agility

Have you ever noticed that you tend to be at your most innovative when you have to move quickly? That doesn’t mean doing a subpar job of creating your product, but it means that you use the data you have available to make smart decisions quickly. Equally, you can usually pivot to something new quickly.

We follow agile methodology with our development, but it’s more than just a project management system of choice. Agility is a cultural trait with an emphasis on creativity and action. Realistically, you could choose a different project methodology, but still adopt agility as a company trait.

Challenge the status quo

This is not about being difficult or belligerent, but part of our culture is that it is acceptable to challenge the status quo, to think unconventionally and to be open about that across team members and management.

We might end up with some very left-of-field ideas, but this is often where we strike gold. Remember, there was a time where people would have thought the idea of the internet in all homes was ridiculous, but here we are!

Have key goals, but trust the team

We’ve found there has to be some kind of broad goals which put parameters around why and how we’re innovating, although there’s a fine balance to be found ensuring that those parameters aren’t stifling. For example, “on time and within budget” are often goals of product teams, so teams have to be trusted to work within those constraints. Probably the biggest goal though is that they deliver an excellent product which meets (and hopefully exceeds) expectations of the client.

Here’s how a McKinsey article put it:

“As an innovation leader, you must ground creative people in accountability for the organization’s objectives, key focus areas, core capabilities, and commitments to stakeholders. Then you give them broad discretion to conduct their work in service of those parameters. Obsessing too much about budget and deadlines will kill ideas before they get off the ground.

Once your scientists understand that they are ultimately accountable for delivering practical products and processes that can be manufactured affordably, you can trust them to not embarrass you by wasting a lot of money and effort. This trust helps forge an innovation culture.”

Replace “scientists” with “development team” and it applies to creating innovative products in this industry too. We trust our team to respect time and budget guidelines and they thrive in the open work environment.

Hire the right talent

You can probably get an idea as to the kinds of people an award-winning product team would hire, and the kinds of traits which help build the environment described above. Closed-door types or those who are overly steeped in observing hierarchies just wouldn’t be a good fit in an environment which hopes for innovation to flourish.

Every company will have their own view on what an “innovative” hire looks like for them, but a frequent common theme is that the right talent isn’t afraid to tackle big goals, take risks or meet tight deadlines. They take initiative and don’t need to have their hand held in order to get on with work and make decisions. They also tend to be team players.

Conversely, those who probably won’t fit so well tend to need a lot more guidance or hand-holding. They probably will want to ask before doing things every time and won’t continue unless they have secured leadership approval. Anyone who prefers to work individually and is worried about getting credit, or anyone who is not fond of change will not be a good fit for an innovative culture.

The hiring process

The hiring process has a huge impact on whether or not you attract the right sort of creative talent to build an award-winning product team. To begin with, it’s important to market your organization effectively so as to attract the right talent. In an ideal world, talented applicants are banging down your door wanting to be let in.

This means that the outer face of your company should emphasize a focus on innovation and highlight the things that you value. People want to work with those who share like-minded values, so being very public about yours helps to get them to find you.

Bring in experts

Experts can be an important resource for encouraging creativity and bringing much-needed experience to a team. At Koombea, we have found that bringing in talented people with varying skills, either as full-time team members or on a consultancy basis really adds to the quality of our work. These innovators help to bring that something “extra” to the table when it comes to creating winning products. It should also be noted that it is very important to thoroughly screen new employees, as they can deceive you, for example, by simply buying essays online, impersonating it as their own, when hiring.

Final thoughts

Award-winning product teams tend to be built by fostering the right culture and environment in an organization, along with making the right hires.

Innovative cultures don’t mind questioning the status quo and breaking down any hierarchical barriers in order to add experience and encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Team members don’t mind a fast-paced environment and thrive on working toward goals.

These teams tend to be able to quickly analyze data, make decisions and take risks without having to go through layers of approval. They are agile and best of all, a lot of fun to work in!

Koombea loves being a center of creativity and innovation in the app development world. Talk to us today about how we can help you.

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