“Every year we waste more than six billion pounds of produce while 49 million people in our country face hunger.”
We initially met with Feeding America to solve a distribution problem. I soon learned that their need was one of the most urgent I ever faced. This was an unprecedented challenge requiring nothing less than a highly creative, engaged team capable of delivering a transformative solution.
In just 10 months after our initial meeting with Feeding America, our team delivered the Producer Donor Portal, a groundbreaking solution that expands and expedites the process of delivering highly perishable food donations to millions of Americans facing hunger. As a result of our solution, Feeding America expects to increase its number of produce donors from about 150 to between 1,000 and 5,000—a 3,333% increase that will significantly improve the organization’s ability to fight hunger.
While helping to feed our country’s hungry is award enough, I was also proud and humbled by the recognition our solution received when named as a 2014 People’s Choice Award Winner of the Chicago Innovation Awards as well the 2015 Microsoft Innovative Technology for Good Citizenship Partner of the Year Award .
At alligatortek, innovation is at the forefront of our minds. It’s what keeps us moving forward and our teams engaged. It’s how we solve our clients’ most complex business problems, help them stay ahead of market changes and serve their customers better.
Innovation: The New Holy Grail
In my role as CEO, every day I talk with company leaders and hear them express their desire to be innovative. Even old economy companies now understand the need to leverage the latest and greatest technologies to drive growth, find new ways to fill market needs, solve customer problems or be more competitive.
I think of innovation this way: it comes down to taking an everyday problem, turning it on its head and solving it from a totally different, unexpected perspective. While the process may sound simple, it’s actually very challenging to innovate.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the most innovative companies are labeled as such because they understand the importance of a workplace culture that gives people the creative freedom, resources and space to do extraordinary things.
Four Ideas You Can Implement Now to Inspire Innovation in Your Workplace
Here are ideas—some strategic, some tactical—that I use at alligatortek to keep my teams engaged in the company and inspired in their work:
- Focus on structure: We give structure to what we do every day. In this way, we never have to worry about not getting to something or missing a priority. This gives us the freedom to think, have fun and be creative. One of my favorite mantras is: Structure sets you free.
- Never be too good to change: Encourage your employees to study your industry, learn and apply. Don’t be afraid to let go of a process and do something differently. Experiment. Blow it up and start over.
- Involve the entire company in resolving issues: At alligatortek, we have open weekly meetings where representative employees from each department weigh in on company issues, identify areas of concern and make plans to tackle them one by one. We let the ideas flow and we never pass judgment.
- Get smarter about how to improve the lives of your employees: Broaden minds by soliciting outside ideas. Share articles and videos and bring in speakers from other companies. Cross pollinate with other local companies that are winning innovation and workplace awards. By learning what other outstanding organizations do to improve their workplaces, you can discover new ways to positively impact your own.
The opportunity with Feeding America has provided some of the most exciting and gratifying experiences in my career. The Producer Donor Portal has had a tremendous impact on Americans facing hunger. As a result, we have received recognition from our industry peers and local business community. And, of course, this is great validation for me, as a leader, that our organization is on the path to keep true to a core focus of ours: innovation.
Want to learn more about our project for Feeding America? This video tells the full story.
About Sid Bala:
Sid Bala is the Founder, President and CEO of alligatortek. He is an experienced software solutions industry executive with a proven record of helping businesses grow through the application of technology and building innovative, award winning workplace cultures.