A collaborative culture doesn’t happen by accident. It needs to be deliberately led, reinforced by organisational values, integrated into the culture of the organisation and grown with a bit of pizzazz. One of the best examples of this can be found at Jade Software, in Christchurch, New Zealand. The company focuses on complex business problems solved beautifully. I love that!
Jade is a highly innovative company, always looking for new inventions and clever thinking to keep it moving forward. Its core values reflect this and are visible throughout the organisation, in visual form but more importantly in the behaviour of those in the building. It is this ability to be congruent between what is said and what is done that is so critical for leadership. The research on trust highlights the importance of DWYSYWD – doing what you say you will do.
This week Jade featured in the local press and I have copied their transcript, with permission, below. The parts I have highlighted are particular phrases that resonated with my focus on the future of leadership and innovation:
New initiative highlights innovation at Jade Software
As a company, Jade survives on its innovative approach to software and technology. Since 1978, new inventions and clever thinking have kept Jade ahead of the competition and successful in industries from transport logistics to power utilities.
Jade has grown and changed repeatedly over its history. One of the few common threads through all 36 years has been the central role played by its people. Their new ideas and new ways of working led to the creation of such things as a blueprint for cloud computing in the 80s, an operating system for mixed-cargo ports in the 90s, and sophisticated crime detection software last decade.
But it’s one thing to know the companies history, and quite another thing to keep living up to it today. It is crucial for Jade to be a company that smart, innovative people want to work for. The more attractive it is to the right people, and the longer they stay, the more successful the company will be.
Company culture is central to this. Jade values collaboration and spontaneous fun, and looks for new ways to bring these values to life.
So this month, Jade launched a new innovation initiative that saw teams from all around the company come up with new ideas for everything from making trucking more efficient to using virtual reality in the office. It both adds to the company’s proud history, and keeps brains switched on and sparking.
Called the Thinkubator, the program encouraged Jade staff to form teams and work on almost any new idea. It was all about giving clever, creative people a chance to put their day-to-day work to one side, team up with a new group, and let their imaginations take over.
With just one week to get organised, nearly a quarter of the company took part. The only brief was to find a new and different approach to a problem. Around half the teams looked at ways for Jade to work smarter and be more productive internally, while the other half solved problems for new or current customers.
After two weeks to work on their ideas, teams submitted short videos for the entire company to vote on. With a bit of space to think, it’s amazing what people came up with. For example, a new mobile app to help charities retain regular donors, a concept for matching cargo to empty trucks, a proposal to reinvent the way international offices share knowledge, and a new flight booking system for staff.
Jade people also got their hands on new and emerging technology, too. Teams came up with concepts that saw laser beams shooting out of a wearable device, and Oculus Rift headsets linking people in different offices all featured in new ideas.
After voting from the company, the four highest-polling teams then pitched their ideas to an expert panel of judges: Grant Ryan (YikeBike, SLI Systems, and others), Ben Reid (Memia), Cheryl Doig (Think Beyond), Associate Professor Derrick Cherrie (Elam School of Fine Arts), and John Ascroft (our Chief Innovation Officer).
The chance to put their ideas to such a distinguished panel meant a lot to all the finalists. Getting personal feedback from entrepreneurs and innovators who have ‘been there, done that’ gave the teams a great boost, too. Seeing the judges’ impressed reactions told teams that Jade is on to some great new ideas. It is also a testament to Jade still doing justice to the company, its inventive history, and its people-focused culture.
The winning entry took on a problem from a charity, helping to keep sponsors engaged. The judges loved seeing something that uses well-known Jade strengths, like system integration and UX design, to help a customer do inspiring work around the world.
Jade Managing Director, David Lindsay, saw collaboration as a real highlight of the Thinkubator. The winning team is a mix of developers, marketers, and a UX designer, split across our Christchurch and Auckland offices. The group had never worked together before this month. Stories like this show that this new innovation initiative has had the desired effect, bringing people together in fun, collaborative ways.
Giving people a bit of time to team up and play with new ideas has created a great buzz around Jade offices. There’s been some amazing innovative work, and people have had fun at the same time. Anything that makes those two things happen together has got to be good. The 200 brains behind the company thrive on inspirational programs like the Thinkubator. The more people are inspired, the better the company will perform.
2015 brings an ever increasing focus on ethical leadership and social responsibility; adaptive thinking; and the ability engage with staff and clients. Jade has my vote as a company working hard to get this right.