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Keeping geospatial innovation relevant: the resilient leader's guide

It can be hard to position geospatial innovation as the preferred innovation option for decision makers over the long term, especially when there are so many other organizational choices available. In this blog post, Kelsey Davis explores some resilience strategies that geospatial leaders can use to shore up their teams and programs in the face of adversity. Use these strategies to strengthen your geospatial value proposition and overcome common challenges that threaten the relevance of geospatial innovation.

The insights and strategies presented here reflect the knowledge and experience of all consultants in Esri Canada’s management consulting practice.

Keeping geospatial innovation relevant

Before we dive into the resilience strategies, we need to appreciate the setting and landscape we're navigating. 

Geospatial technology has evolved from being predominantly a mapping tool to a vital enabler of multiple business capabilities and much innovation. The potential of geospatial innovation is tremendous, but it’s not usually the only option being promoted. In a world where broad and often vaguely defined initiatives like digital transformation, technological innovation and data-driven decision making are increasingly common, geospatial innovation can sometimes be overwhelmed by competing proposals. Factor in tech and GIS knowledge gaps among decision makers, and it can become easy for geospatial innovation to fall by the wayside.

Overcoming this takes resilience and strong, committed leadership on the part of the geospatial business function.

Keeping geospatial innovation relevant and fortifying its position as the most valuable option requires a leader with a clear, adaptable sense of purpose, the ability to motivate others to share in that purpose and an unwavering commitment to building resilience. This approach is the most successful at helping geospatial leaders keep geospatial innovation as the preferred option in the sometimes-unclear world of technology-enabled innovation. 

Strategies for resilience

Embrace continuous learning: In the world of technical innovation, change is the only constant. As a geospatial leader, you must have and foster a thirst for knowledge. Encourage your team to engage in ongoing learning and to attend conferences, webinars and workshops to stay updated with the latest skills and knowledge. Instilling a culture of continuous learning will help your team adapt swiftly to new challenges and mitigate the rapid pace of change.

Foster agile mindsets: Resilience and agility go hand in hand. Encourage your team to be open to change, experiment with new ideas and iterate quickly. By fostering an agile mindset, you're creating an environment where innovation can flourish and your team can pivot in response to changing conditions and unexpected outcomes. 

Nurture diversity: Innovation thrives in diverse environments. Ensure that your team members bring many different perspectives, backgrounds and skill sets. Diverse teams bring forth unique solutions and creative approaches that can be game changers in corporate settings where competition for limited resources is high.

Fail fast and forward: Failure is a steppingstone to success. Make room for failure and cultivate a culture where it’s accepted as a valuable learning opportunity—but don’t linger. Encourage your team to experiment, take risks, learn from successes and failures, and move on quickly. This attitude will drive innovation and nurture resilience.

Stay customer-centric: The heart of geospatial innovation lies in solving real-world business problems. Listen to your stakeholders' needs, pain points and aspirations. By staying focused on the needs of your customers, you ensure that your geospatial innovations address actual challenges and provide meaningful, high-value solutions.

Network and collaborate: Collaboration has the power to supercharge innovation. Network with other leaders and champions distributed in business lines, as well as external organizations and experts. Collaborative projects and partnerships can open up opportunities, helping your geospatial solutions stay relevant and a preferred choice among innovation options.

Actioning resilience strategies 

So, how do these strategies contribute to ensuring that geospatial innovation remains relevant in your organization? Let’s consider an example.

Let’s say your team has just stumbled upon a geospatial innovation that has the potential to bring valuable new capabilities to your business. This represents an exciting opportunity that would streamline efficiencies and propel your organization ahead of the competition. Thanks to your culture of continuous learning, your team quickly recognizes the opportunity and understands the potential. Using their agile mindset, they pivot and launch the innovation well ahead of the competition. Being the first to capitalize on this innovation draws much positive attention and reinforces the team’s position as innovation leaders. 

Your diverse team continues to add unique perspectives to the innovation, making it even more robust and tougher to beat as a valuable business asset. Along the way, there are setbacks, but they are quickly overcome, and your team rapidly leverages them as opportunities for further growth. Thanks to your customer-centric approach, you continue to re-align with the precise and emerging needs of your clients, entrenching geospatial innovation as the best and preferred innovation option for decision makers.

And let's not forget the power of collaboration. Through your network, you discover complementary expertise, shared aspirations and synergies that add even more value. This collaboration boosts your value proposition and enhances your team's reputation as a leading provider of innovative and valuable business solutions.

Final thoughts

Geospatial innovation within an organization can be challenging, so being a strong and resilient leader with a clear purpose and ability to motivate others is a necessity. By embracing continuous learning, fostering agility, nurturing diversity, quickly embracing failure, staying customer-centric and promoting collaboration, you can easily navigate the complex and competitive organizational innovation landscape, keeping geospatial innovation relevant and far ahead of other options.

Remember that undertaking geospatial innovation and actioning these kinds of strategies is a journey that takes time. If you focus on building resilience, you’ll instill practices and mindsets that enable your teams to succeed sustainably. 

Thanks to all of the consultants in the Management Consulting team at Esri Canada for their review and edits. 

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About the Author

In the role of Program Manager, Indigenous Communities at Esri Canada, Kelsey works closely with Indigenous leaders, community members, and stakeholders to build relationships that foster geospatial-enabled capacity building, sustainable development, and cultural preservation. With over two decades of experience, Kelsey brings a wealth of knowledge in developing and implementing GIS solutions that address the unique needs and challenges faced by Indigenous peoples.

Profile Photo of Kelsey Davis