How to get started on your IoT strategy

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So you finally want to put that Internet of Things (IoT) strategy that you’ve been talking about for years into place in your company. Excellent! The first step to an IoT strategy is to acknowledge the kind of framework to allow for innovation in IoT, and to create the necessary conditions for success.

Over on Designswarm, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino provides some highly relevant pointers to get started:

  1. Think about legacy
  2. Know your history and your landscape
  3. Help users get literate
  4. Be patient

Given I come in less from a product design & development background and rather from a business/product/innovation strategy angle, I’d add some additional aspects:

Think long-term and big picture

It’s important to understand that innovation isn’t a goal but a journey. The most interesting—and potentially most groundbreaking and lucrative—things might very well be those that happen as a side effect. They’re unexpected, projects that bubble up as the mindset and mental focus of product teams, researchers, and management starts to shift. Give it the necessary space, budget, and time to breath unfold. It’ll be worth it.

Top-down support to empower bottom-up innovation

The single biggest point of failure in trying to transform a company towards more innovation—or innovative thinking and practices— is the right mix of top-down and bottom-up. The key is to empower small teams to experiment and learn by giving them strong support from the very top. This, and only this, can ensure that these teams have the resources as well as the mandate to invest into experiments, learning, and exploration. It also is the only way to allow for them to fail: Where there are experiments, there is failure. This needs to be ok.

Change culture to allow for experimentation

Especially in larger companies there is a culture of deliver against very strict KPIs of some sort or another. Yet, often this leads to sub-optimum outcomes. Everybody has seen (or even worked at) an organization where there was a strong culture of looking busy and productive rather than being productive. A lot of the experimentation and learning that lead to great innovation in IoT, and that in fact lead to innovative thinking, practices and culture, doesn’t necessarily look particularly productive. You might see people reading from all kinds of sources, having chats, tinker with wood blocks or Lego, or write bots that generate poems, or whatever: This is a necessary part of the journey. Not from every action there’s an easy-to-spot line to draw to that final new product. Only if the culture allows for this without anyone giving these teams a hard time about this can they deliver.

Also, openness fosters innovation. Encourage researchers and tinkerers to publicly share their research journey, their experiments, their thinking. This allows for an easier exchange with external folks and will make it easier for other in-house teams to be aware what’s going on across the company. The upside will almost invariably outweigh potential downsides.

Allow for external input

A lot of times, internal teams will be guided strongly by the in-house thinking. Nothing wrong with that! However, it can help to get in external input, inspiration, help. Conferences and meetups allow in-house team members to swap ideas with others. Inviting collaborators in—through workshops, talks, long-term collaborations—brings in fresh perspectives.

These rules of thumb can help you get started. When you’re ready to move to the next level and start identifying opportunities around IoT, feel free to ping me. Good luck!

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