Innovation. The word is everywhere in the tech industry, and with good reason. Canada is a recognized leader in science, technology and innovation. And GSoft has even created a division dedicated purely to new concept development
We set up GLab in 2017 and now have 12 people there testing ideas on a full-time basis. “We used to run GHouse, an initiative that aimed to spark innovation by sending teams abroad for a few months to focus on new concept development, but we realized it wasn’t leading to the results we wanted,” says Guillaume Chalifoux, GLab’s Marketing and Innovation Director.
GSoft wants innovation to permeate the culture in all company departments, which is why we decided to bring all of our innovation projects under one roof. That’s how GLab came about. It’s a separate entity within GSoft that focuses entirely on innovation. In fact, the fact that the team is 100% dedicated to innovation is the secret to its success.
“Our goal is to diversify GSoft’s line of products by generating increasingly advanced tech solutions,” explains Chalifoux. Unlike other tech firms that focus mainly on marketing, GLab takes the exploration a step further by delivering products that leverage the most recent breakthroughs from fundamental research in artificial intelligence or neuroscience. GLab’s strength is that it’s both a research lab and business incubator, combining technological savvy and strong marketing capabilities. That’s what sets it apart.
What does it take to work at GLab? First, you have to be a team player who can stay in step with the rest of the group. Each of the 12 team members—regardless of their roles—contributes to every single idea developed at the lab. The developers work hand-in-hand with the marketing and design specialists to ensure that innovations can be brought to market quickly. Working in silos is simply not an option. GLab is set up to promote team collaboration, right down to the way the office is configured. It’s also set up so that the team can capitalize on each person’s ideas, talent and efforts—and take them to the next level.
All this makes sense when you consider that if you want different results, you need a different method. In other words, radical thinking is a prerequisite for innovation. Since GLab’s goal is to be disruptive by creating things that don’t exist yet, we often have to dismantle entrenched work methods. Hasta la vista, standard operating procedures! “It’s kind of like walking blindfolded; you have to feel your way along,” says Guillaume. Navigating the unknown is an essential skill that GLab members have to develop. Since the lab works in iterations or sprints, employees have to be very flexible. “Sometimes we need to switch directions, but without losing our momentum. It demands a lot of resilience.”
Resilience. That’s another key term for understanding innovation. Guillaume Chalifoux believes that, to get to the heart of innovation, you have to continually question yourself. This means that if a product isn’t successful, GLab members have to be able to bounce back. “Sometimes we’re absolutely convinced that we’ve found a technological solution to a major problem, but it doesn’t catch on. Or we realize that our solution addresses a problem that users still don’t know they have,” explains Guillaume. GLab employees have to take the lessons learned and move on to the next project, even if they’ve developed an emotional connection to the product. “You have to give it your all, without getting caught up in it,” advises Guillaume. It's a thin line!
The team needs to be resilient in the face of disappointment—and of success! “That’s the hardest part! A failure can motivate you to tackle the next challenge. But when a product takes off, the excitement wanes and you have to find renewed energy for the next project,” says Guillaume. Once the innovation phase for a product is complete, it gets passed on from GLab to other GSoft teams. That’s when another type of resilience is required. After spending months on a product, it can be hard to say goodbye. In times like that, it’s important to remember that GLab’s mission is to innovate.
Victories fuel motivation, which plays an essential role in innovation. “We have to strike a balance between success, comfort and risk,” says Chalifoux. Our production cycles are very short, typically taking three to six months from development through to launch. Plus, between big products the team often works on shorter technical experiments.
To keep things fresh, GLab’s team of 12 permanent employees is very diverse. “That’s one of our assets. We have people with highly technical backgrounds and others with strong business and marketing skills,” explains Guillaume Chalifoux. This combination of talents is what allows the team to develop products that address real problems and help customers with issues they face on a regular basis. The Marketing and Sales Director explains that the team always starts by examining an industry need and then it tries to come up with a creative application of advanced technology to solve the issue.
As diverse as they are, there’s one thing that all GLab members have in common: obsessive curiosity. “It’s not something you can learn at school. It’s innate in each of us”. Even though the GLab team keeps up with the latest developments in their field by attending conferences and training courses locally and abroad, this intrinsic quality is embedded in GLab’s DNA. "It's part of our individual and team mindsets. You have to be passionate, curious and on a quest to continually push your limits," concludes Guillaume Chalifoux. That’s why people will always be central to innovation.
I wear many hats at GLab. I’m involved in everything from product development through to marketing, and I’m constantly on the lookout for opportunities to innovate. My talented teammates are my main source of inspiration and I consider myself lucky to work with them. But more broadly, I enjoy going head-to-head with international competitors; the challenge drives me to push boundaries and think outside the box.
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