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2015 11-24 innovation in product development and future of work - new format

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Dr. Christoph Steindl
CEO & Founder of Catalysts
Innovation in Product Development
and
Future of Work
Hello, my name is Ch...
Around 140 Employees:
• 75 in Linz (Austria)
• 40 in Wien (Austria)
• 25 in Cluj (Romania)
Doubling every 2 to 2.5 years
B...
Who is ?
Large Agile
Software
Development
Machine Learning
&
Big Data
High
Performance
Computing
Catalysts develops and op...
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2015 11-24 innovation in product development and future of work - new format

  1. 1. Dr. Christoph Steindl CEO & Founder of Catalysts Innovation in Product Development and Future of Work Hello, my name is Christoph Steindl. I want to share some of my experience. 10 years ago I have founded Catalysts. By now, Catalysts is well established in Austria as one of the best software development companies. 1
  2. 2. Around 140 Employees: • 75 in Linz (Austria) • 40 in Wien (Austria) • 25 in Cluj (Romania) Doubling every 2 to 2.5 years Bootstrapped & Self-Funded Best employer in Austria (Kununu) Catalysts Coding Contests (web, fb) Accelerator for Startups We are around 140 highly skilled software developers: • 75 in Linz (Austria) • 40 in Vienna (Austria) • 25 in Cluj (Romania) We’ve been doubling in size every 2 to 2.5 years so far. We have bootstrapped Catalysts without external funding. We are fully self-funded. Catalysts has been voted best employer in Austria for a couple of years already (based on more than 150 anonymous reviews on kununu). We’ve been organizing the Catalysts Coding Contests for years, the largest coding contests in Europe. We are an accelerator for Startups. At the moment we are invested in 10 companies. 2
  3. 3. Who is ? Large Agile Software Development Machine Learning & Big Data High Performance Computing Catalysts develops and operates individual software solutions in three main areas: http://media.catalysts.cc/media/JDRae7 http://media.catalysts.cc/media/oxcHpShttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uNC_YxIB6A But maybe I should spend a few more words on what we do. Catalysts develops and operates individual software solutions in three main areas: 1. Large Agile Software Development 2. Machine Learning & Big Data 3. High Performance Computing You can check out the explanation videos. 3
  4. 4. Enable Innovation through 1. The Right People 2. The Right Environment 3. Just enough S-S-P … and not through perks: • Gym Subscription • Free Lunch • Free Massage • Free Hairdresser • Free whatever In today’s talk I want to focus on enabling innovation. What has made Catalysts a number 1 innovator? We enable innovation through • the right people, • the right environment, and • just enough S-S-P. You cannot know what I mean by S-S-P – so stay tuned ;-) And not through perks like • gym subscriptions • free lunches • free massages • free hairdressers • free whatever We don’t just throw money onto people, we are smarter. 4
  5. 5. 1.1 The Right People: Curiosity “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” You know this guy, right? The following quote is from Albert Einstein: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Curiosity is most likely the most important trait of people at Catalysts. Like Einstein, we actively seek out experiences and information that make us think. We like whatever challenges us or our assumptions. We like riddles and celebrate our wins. We all have an inner drive for growth and for continued learning. I’m sure you also share that passion with me. 5
  6. 6. Curiosity Curiosity is our response to an information gap: between what we know and what we want to know Learning happens in the Curiosity zone. We learn better when we find learning difficult. Fear kills curiosity. Rewards reduce creativity. Focus as well. Curiosity is our response to an information gap: between what we know already and what we want to know. If I know nothing about a subject, it’s typically not especially interesting either. I’m not curious to know more. Once I learn something and can put it to use, I’m getting curious and want to learn more and more. When I think that I’ve pretty much covered it, interest and curiosity decline again. Much of our learning happens in the “Curiosity Zone”. Unfortunately, we learn better when we find learning difficult. When we have to work hard to learn something. When people learn something rapidly they often learn it superficially. They are less likely to integrate the new information with what they already know. So don’t just depend on Google Search and Wikipedia since you will be degrading your capacity to learn. There is one caveat with curiosity: fear kills curiosity. Your environment must provide enough safety. Otherwise you can’t expect to see a lot of curiosity and learning. There’s another caveat: Rewards reduce creativity, so don’t set up incentives if you 6
  7. 7. want creative solutions. Focus is also bad for creativity, i.e. relax and organize for more slack.
  8. 8. 1.2 The Right People: Experimentation “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We have an experimentation mindset, just as Thomas Alva Edison. We experiment and don’t give up. We have our assumptions or theory in our minds. We use our theory to make a prediction. We design an experiment to test the prediction. We perform the experiment and observe how it turns out. And we update our theory if required. 8
  9. 9. Finding Those People Coding Contests (1000 participants, twice a year, web, fb) Employee Referral Programme ➔ >1,000 Applications per year (without paid ads etc.) Internships • 20-30 short internships (2-4 weeks) during February (lecture free) • 40-50 long internships (4-14 weeks) during the summer Ambassador Programme (for former interns) So in order to enable innovation, we have to find the right people who are curious and have an experimentation mindset. We have the following tactics to achieve that: • We’ve been organizing the Catalysts Coding Contest since 2007. By now we have around 1,000 participants per event, twice a year. • We have an employee referral programme which we call the “Catalysts Talent Quest” • Together we those initiatives give us more than 1,000 applications every year without any paid ads and without the help of external headhunters or recruiters. • From those 1,000 applications we select the 5-6% who are the best fit for our company. We also offer a lot of internship positions. • We have 20-30 short internships for just a few weeks during February where there are no lectures at the universities in Austria. The target audience for those short internships are students in their first year. All older students typically work part time. The first year students are still “on the market”, so we screen them and recruit the best. • We have 40-50 longer internships during the summer, half of them pupils from 15 to 19 years, half of them students from 19 to 25 years. Every new team member is assigned to a personal coach. They perform a lot of pair 9
  10. 10. programming during the first couple of weeks. The new colleague receives a lot of feedback to quickly move up the learning curve. We also have an “Ambassador Programme” for all former interns. Back in their classrooms, they praise their time with Catalysts and are the best marketers. We continue to invite them to our team events and to our educational events.
  11. 11. Be Open and Explicit Upfront Handbook for New Employees (web) >150 anonymous reviews on Kununu.com (still fewer on Glassdoor) about the work environment Videos on our Youtube channel (www.youtube. com/catalystscc) • “Work at Catalysts – Philosophy and Values” (youtube) • “iGrow” (youtube) • and many more Open Day (web) We have learnt that it’s important to be open and explicit upfront. We have written a handbook for new employees. And what is more important: we have made it publicly available so that every potential team member can learn about our environment. Our team members have written more than 150 anonymous reviews on Kununu.com, the largest feedback platform in Austria / Germany / Switzerland. (We don’t have so many reviews yet on Glassdoor.) Those reviews paint a detailed picture about our work environment as well. And we have dozens of videos on our Youtube channel, among others • Work at Catalysts – Philosophy and Values and • iGrow – how a software developer’s career may unfold. Finally, we invite everybody to pay us a visit on our open days, twice per year, typically with more than 200 visitors who stay in our offices for several hours. We demonstrate and describe a lot of our projects and we talk about the “Catalysts Way”. Together all those tactics offer a lot of information to interested people. That also allows them to understand whether they would be good fits for our 11
  12. 12. environment. Which leads to better applications and to less waste for us during the application process.
  13. 13. 2. The Right Environment 1. From Individuals to Hockey Stick 2. Values for Cohesion 3. Gamification Everywhere 4. From Information Radiators to the Learning Organization Next to the “Right People” we strive hard to provide the right environment. I’m going to expand on 4 points here. 13
  14. 14. 2.1 From Individuals to Hockey Stick At the outset when you start with a group of people who have never worked with each other, initially each individual is heading in a different direction. You have to form a team out of a group of people. And you have to work hard to align those individuals into the direction of the team. And if you keep learning as a team, you can manage the team’s velocity to get the team onto a hockey stick for success. One tricky question here is how to align those individuals. 14
  15. 15. 2.2 Values for Cohesion For the same mindset For intuitive decision making in the right direction • Core values • Permission-to-play values • Aspirational values • (Accidental values) CORE Aspirational Permission to Play Acci- denta l Values give us cohesion. Values help that we have the same mindset. Values allow each individual to confidently make many decisions without thinking too much about them. One can decide intuitively and still be confident that others would decide similarly. At Catalysts we have adopted the following scheme to sort out our truly important values. We have a few Core Values: just 2-3 behavioural traits which are quite constant over time. We will allow ourselves to be punished for living those values. And we sometimes take those values too far. We have a couple of Permission-to-Play Values: the minimum behavioural standards. However, they don’t represent a competitive advantage by themselves. And we have a few Aspirational Values: we wish we already had them and we believe we must develop them. We aspire to adopt them and do our best to manage them into our organization. But they are neither natural nor inherent. There can also be Accidental Values: they are unintentional, not necessary, and not 15
  16. 16. necessarily good for the organization. We work to get rid of them.
  17. 17. 2.3 Gamification Everywhere How to find the right people – CCC, CTQ How to onboard and coach them – manage their learning curve Gaming Nights (fb) FUNtastic Team Events (blog) Evening dinners with partners Celebrating babies and weddings Years ago we have started to gamify everything. Why? Because we are all gamers. We play computer and video games. All of our children and two thirds of all adults. We have gamified how we find the right people with Catalysts Coding Contests and with the Catalysts Talent Quest. We have gamified how to onboard and coach them. We actively manage the learning curve of every new team member. We are organizing gaming nights. Not just for team members, but open for friends and others. Our team members regularly self-organize FUNtastic team events. The company regularly organizes evening dinners. At those evening dinners, everybody is invited to bring his or her partner. It is important to us that our family learns to understand how we tick. And to have some fun with us. We are also celebrating babies and weddings. Even though we’ve grown to well about 100 people, we are still one large family. 17
  18. 18. Overall we have worked hard to bring intrinsic motivators to the foreground. Extrinsic motivators like rewards and money would only have negative effects in the long term on motivation.
  19. 19. 2.4 From Information Radiators to the Learning Organization Curious individuallearning by him/herself and for him/herself With sharing mindset to give more Within a team of like-minded give and take steadily equilibrium, mutual benefits … and add just enough S-S-P We have started with curious people. Curious people learn by themselves and for themselves. You don’t have to tell them to do so. It will even have a negative effect if you tell them that they should learn something or that they should learn more. They learn because of their inner drive and not because of instructions or external motivators. We have then worked to turn those curious people into information radiators. So that they can develop a sharing mindset to give more. Within a team of like-minded people you’ll then have a regular exchange of information and knowledge. People will give and take. They will benefit mutually from each other. For that to happen, you heed to add just enough S-S-P. You know that term that I used 15 minutes ago. By S-S-P, I mean strategy, structure, and process. 19
  20. 20. Google’s “20% Time” Have you heard about Google’s “20% time”? Can anyone tell us what that means? Well, “20% time” was Google’s try to innovate from the bottom up. Engineers were given some freedom initially. Which was reduced more and more. And is gone by now. Google switched from bottom up innovation to top down innovation, to a more concerted effort with just enough strategy, structure, and process. Why? For large initiatives like “Google Glass” or the “Google Car”, a concerted effort is necessary. 20
  21. 21. 3. Just Enough S-S-P Strategy – the goal, where to go, what to reach for Structure – who and what, time and money Process – how to approach it, how to organize and do it, how to synchronize Google has learnt that innovation doesn’t reliably happen if you just wish for it. One has to add just enough S-S-P, i.e. Strategy, Structure, and Process. With strategy I mean the goal, where to go and what to reach for. With structure I mean shared rules on who and what, how much time one has at hand and how much money is available. With process I mean the common understanding on how to approach it, how to organize and do something, and how to synchronize. I am going to give you two examples. 21
  22. 22. E.g. Development Roadmaps Collect material Make it available Make it easy to order books Organize the roadmap Facilitate the learning curve Gamify learning (i => I => T => ★) The first example is about development roadmaps. Within Catalysts, we have disciplines like software development, requirements engineering, growth hacking, etc. For each discipline, we want to provide an environment where every individual learns a lot, where information is shared freely and where in the end the teams and the entire company learn more and faster than our competitors. That’s the Strategy, the goal. So what do we do on purpose (and not by accident): We collect relevant material, like books, articles, tutorials, etc. We make that material freely available to our team. We have made it very easy for every team member to order new material. Whatever someone needs will be bought. We put the best material on our roadmap which we divide into three parts: basic, advanced, and expert to visualize the learning curve. That’s the Structure. By making explicit what books are meant for beginners and which ones for experts, it 22
  23. 23. becomes easier to grab for the right one. That’s the Process. And we have worked to gamify the learning. To help new team members to grow. We often use the following metaphor: Initially every person has his or her strengths (e.g. good mobile developer). The initial skill set and experience is expressed by the “i” in small letters. After some time of learning and working one acquires more experience, hence the “i“ grows into a capital ”I” with one area of very deep knowledge. From that starting point one develops more breadth, more experience in related areas, and grows from an “I” into a “T”. And finally one grows ever more experienced in ever more dimensions and turns into a star. Our (internal) roadmap application visualizes one’s experiences in a spider diagram.
  24. 24. E.g. Technology Radar What’s new under the sun? Synchronize on what to evaluate Coordinate on who evaluates what and when Manage the lifecycle (until sunsetting) Acquire deep knowledge Develop enough breadth • Know where to go • Get there faster • Get better than others, faster The second example is about a technology radar. We are here at the IT days because it’s an excellent event to stay “up to date”. We want to understand what there is that we might have missed. What’s new under the sun? In a dynamic field like ours, there typically is a lot. Once a team grows larger, one has the benefit of more heads, i.e. knowledge and experience. But there is also the disadvantage that new team members cannot easily know who is knowledgeable about what. Knowledge management is a tough problem. So far I have rarely seen companies excel at that topic. So what have we done? We attend conferences. And we also check out the programmes of conferences that we do not attend. We take a look at many other sources. We take the interesting bits from all those sources and bring them to our disciplines, i.e. to our experts in those fields. We synchronize on what to evaluate, i.e. we build up our backlog of technologies, 24
  25. 25. frameworks, etc. that we want to evaluate in the near future. We then coordinate who is going to evaluate what and by when. After an evaluation we decide whether a technology or framework is ready for prime time, i.e. we would happily use them in our projects. In some cases the evaluator will decide against a technology, then this is made visible for everybody. We don’t want to waste time and effort by building on a technology that we have already rejected once through an evaluation. In some cases we have to decide not to start new projects any more based on a specific framework, i.e. we manage the lifecycle, we retire frameworks. Once we’ve adopted frameworks into our standard technology stack, we work to acquire deep knowledge. We also work to develop enough breadth, i.e. to have enough people and capacity to use the selected framework or technology in all upcoming projects. In the end the technology radar is about: • Knowing where to go • It is about getting there faster And it is about getting better faster than others. All that would not happen by chance. You have to have the Right People and provide the Right Environment. And you have to add just enough Strategy, Structure, and Process to make that happen.
  26. 26. Summary – How to Enable Innovation Manage the right people in Work hard to align them with shared values Gamify Everything • Learning • Knowledge Sharing Don’t rely on innovation to just happen randomly But provide just enough Strategy, Structure, and Process So let me summarize how to enable innovation. First and foremost, it’s about the people. You have to manage the right people in. Then you have to work hard to align them with shared values. And you have to gamify everything from learning to knowledge sharing. Don’t rely on innovation to just happen randomly. But provide just enough Strategy, Structure, and Process. 26
  27. 27. Reach Out to Me! Dr. Christoph Steindl steindl@catalysts.cc +43 664 5419941 http://www.linkedin.com/in/christophsteindl https://www.xing.com/hp/Christoph_Steindl/ https://www.facebook.com/csteindl callto://csteindl If my talk has been interesting, let me know. If you have something to share with me – I’m happy to learn. Please reach out to me. You can reach me by email, phone or social media. 27
  28. 28. References The Right People: • “Curious” by Ian Leslie, B00HVBJYZ8 • “Experimentation Matters” by Stephan Thomke, 1578517508 • “Managing the Unexpected” by Karl Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe, B004IK9U4U • “Topgrading” by Bradford Smart, B0074VTH02 Gamification: • “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal, B004NBZFS4 • “Drive” by Daniel Pink, B0033TI4BW • “Enterprise Gamification” by Mario Herger, B00LO5W6L6 • “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely, B002RI9QJE • “Why We Do What We Do” by Edward Deci, 0140255265 The Right Environment: • “The Advantage” by Patrick Lencionim , B006ORWT3Y • “The Open Organization” by Jim Whitehurst, B00O92Q6CQ • “Work Rules!” by Laszlo Bock, B00NLHJKBE • “#Workout” by Jurgen Appelo, B00N6REYKQ • “Startup CEO” by Matt Blumberg, B00DL0QFGE • “The Best Place to Work” by Ron Friedman, B00INIYFTS • “Joy, Inc.” by Richard Sheridan, B00DMCW1FK • “How Google Works” by Eric Schmidt, B00J379F3O • The Responsibility Process by Christopher Avery, https://www.christopheravery.com/ • “Non-Obvious” by Rohit Bhargava, B00TB1TE0Q More on Catalysts’ shelves on GoodReads https://www.goodreads. com/user/show/41937025-catalysts I haven’t added detailed citations on each slide. So please check out the following books to find the material from which I’ve taken ideas for my presentation. 28

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