As technology teams seek every avenue to gain an edge over competitors, the concept of innovation is often tossed around as the difference between companies that thrive and companies that don’t. The actual path to innovation in a business context is often murky—and even harder to document.
But documentation is a necessity for innovation. In fact, an effective document repository could separate organizations that innovate by chance from organizations that innovate consistently.
However, not all document repositories will truly help you innovate. Creating a repository that boosts alignment and creativity—what we refer to as an innovation repository—requires an entirely new approach to documentation.
So, how can you transform your document repository from simple file storage into your competitive edge? Let’s dive in.
What is a document repository, and why do you need one?
A document repository refers to the system in which an organization or team stores and centralizes files, including guidelines, process flows, project plans, and more. A centralized document repository is intended to help employees easily and securely find the information they need to do their jobs, make decisions, and innovate.
Despite its obvious value, the mere mention of documentation can be groan-inducing for fast-moving teams. Documentation is often seen as a drag, a chore, an impediment to the thing you’d rather be doing—or the thing you do when you don’t have anything else to do. Accordingly, it’s often done without rigor or regularity, rendering many document repositories out of date, incomplete, and essentially useless.
But documentation can and should be something that’s baked into the way innovative teams ideate, plan, design, build, and launch new products.
This is why teams need to expand their understanding (and acceptance) of documentation beyond dry, impenetrable technical documents by focusing on building an innovation repository.
What is an innovation repository?
An innovation repository represents a new—and arguably much easier—way of creating (and maintaining) a document repository. Unlike traditional approaches that treat documentation as a separate task, an innovation repository can be thought of as an “always on” process. It focuses on turning the work employees are already doing into documentation.
In essence, an innovation repository is constructed of all the documentation that forms a living blueprint of your business.
While most traditional document repositories include basic process or system documentation, an innovation repository takes it a step further. It includes collaborative working sessions, brainstorms, storyboarding, user journeys, process maps, UX wireframes, project timelines, sprint planning boards, cloud architecture diagrams, retrospectives and feedback, launch reviews, and more.
For a document repository to promote innovation, it’s also important that it’s visual and interactive. The visual nature helps show the connections between ideas, clarifies complex concepts, and allows teams to reach a shared understanding. And when a document repository is interactive, teams can collaborate within the repository, centralizing not only documents but also communication—a key to innovation.
In the same way a company wiki serves as a living record of personnel-related procedures, benefits, mission statements, vision decks, and branding guidelines that keep a business running, the goal of an innovation document repository is to capture how ideas come to life, how work gets done, where innovation is happening, and how success is measured and replicated, in order to keep a business innovating.
When ideas can be easily recorded at the point of inception, innovation has a clear trail of crumbs. Done right, your innovation repository shrinks the gap between doing the work and documenting the work to the point where the gap is basically non-existent.
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Benefits of creating an innovation repository (over a traditional document repository)
It’s important to note that an innovation repository isn’t a singular piece of documentation but rather a mental model for viewing all the collaborative boards, documents, charts, and plans your teams produce as living, breathing documentation on how your company executes its best ideas.
When done with rigor, this kind of document repository would allow anyone in the business (be it a C-suite exec or a new individual contributor hire) to quickly get informed on how meaningful work is done on a given team or unit, thus eliminating the context gaps and knowledge silos that often hinder seamless collaboration.
For innovation to become the norm, keeping an innovation repository isn’t just a “nice to have” but a requirement to stay competitive and agile.
Turning your document repository into an innovation repository benefits the business because it:
- Acts as a launching pad for change: For organizations undergoing large-scale changes—like a company reorg, digital transformation, cloud expansion, or move to hybrid work—an innovation repository can serve as a holistic “current state” of your company that provides a common starting point for executives. Having a readily available, easy-to-understand record of changes that have already happened, ideas that have been nixed, and bets that have been made allows you to turn your ship with confidence.
- Makes your teams more efficient over time: With a document repository built on a visual canvas like Lucid, you can meticulously track what works and what doesn’t and avoid retreading complex conversations and solving difficult problems you’ve already solved before.
- Reduces learning curves as a result of turnover or growth: For teams that have been forced to reduce their workforce—or for hyper-growth companies that can’t hire fast enough—an innovation repository serves as the ultimate silo buster. By keeping all your best notes, WIPs, and trains of thought in a highly visual shared workspace, your employees can get up to speed, provide value faster, and easily pick up where others left off.
- Democratizes decision-making: Document repositories focused on innovation help meaningful ideas and solutions that actually solve problems win out over office politics and job titles.
The key to creating a document repository that truly boosts innovation
In order to create an innovation repository, you need to collaborate in the right software.
It’s clear that existing tools like email, text chat, and video calls—while useful—are ill-equipped to be the comprehensive tools that distributed teams need to feel aligned, creative, and innovative.
A survey conducted by Lucid found that over a third of knowledge workers cite information lost between meetings as a top barrier to innovation. Without a centralized place to record ideas, notes, or plans, teams lose momentum after meetings and often need to meet again to discuss the same topic.
This is where visual collaboration comes in. Visual collaboration provides teams with a visual language to communicate complex ideas or plans and brings teams together, regardless of location, to collaborate on a shared, infinite canvas.
When teams use visual collaboration platforms to work together during meetings or asynchronously, they create a clear record of innovation—from the initial brainstorm to the action plan and progress made as they bring ideas to life.
Teams won’t lose information between meetings because they’ve documented the information while collaborating visually during the meeting. They can pick up right where they left off to keep the creativity flowing.
Here’s the best part: The more your organization collaborates with visual collaboration software, the more valuable documentation you create. And the more valuable documentation you have, the more you can innovate.
This is why emerging visual collaboration solutions must go beyond brainstorming or communication. To make innovation predictable and repeatable, visual collaboration must span across the entire lifecycle of work: ideation, planning, designing, building, launching, and monitoring.
When all work is centralized in the same platform, you can create an innovation document repository that serves as a holistic blueprint for how your business functions, grows, and creates value.
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Using a document repository to make innovation the norm
Innovation without documentation is like publishing a cookbook with a list of ingredients but no recipe. To be truly valuable, your document repository must be something that’s easy to understand and embedded in the places, platforms, boards, and planning documents where your teams are already doing their work.
It must paint a clear picture of not only what innovation your team produced but also how it came to life—from ideation and planning to execution at scale.
With a visual collaboration platform like Lucid, documenting the work can become second nature to doing the work. By fostering an intuitive way of working—keeping the work in a single place to make your teams more effective, productive, and efficient—you can start to view innovation as a daily occurrence on their journey to see and build the future.
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Lucid Software is a pioneer and leader in visual collaboration dedicated to helping teams build the future. With its products—Lucidchart, Lucidspark, and Lucidscale—teams are supported from ideation to execution and are empowered to align around a shared vision, clarify complexity, and collaborate visually, no matter where they are. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucid.co.
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