Darrin Grove is happy that his growing innovation firm is located in Pittsburgh. Grove is the founder and CEO of TrueFit Solutions Inc., a 42-employee innovation firm that helps entrepreneurial start-ups and large enterprises bring new mobile, Web and social apps product ideas to market.
“We’re very proud to be a Pittsburgh-based company,” Grove says. “Pittsburgh’s a great place for us to be because Pittsburgh is a very innovative city and the innovation in Pittsburgh dates very, very far back. Pittsburgh has innovation in its DNA.”
Grove and his team at TrueFit work hard to collaborate with entrepreneurs, start-ups and large enterprise companies to develop innovation.
“In many ways we ourselves are very entrepreneurial,” Grove says. “We ourselves still have a start-up style to us. It’s kind of who we are, and it’s a group of people we love to work with to bring new ideas to market.”
Smart Business spoke to Grove about how he grows his business through innovative collaboration.
What have been the biggest success factors for TrueFit?
Understanding who you are and understanding the value that you bring to your clients sounds really obvious but is very, very critical. It’s more important to be different than it is to be better. Everybody’s organizational DNA is what makes them different not just better. You really have to understand that. The message has to be apparent, so part of what has helped us is that with our partners we have really tried to be clear so that not just the company knows who we are.
There is an ecosystem of partners that is essential for the growth of any organization. It’s not just up to us. It needs to be an ecosystem of collaborative partners. You have to think outside yourself to understand your ecosystem. What is the network of other people or partner organizations that are going to complement each other and contribute to where it’s a two-way street?
How do you understand your organization’s DNA and where you fit?
It starts with a process of getting really clear about who you are and then learning how to live into that and explain it to other people. Understanding that our reason for being was enabling innovation was a very important step, but articulating it in a way that is understandable was another important step.
You have to become very clear as an organization around what your DNA is, what your mission is and what your values are. I strongly suggest that people write that down. For a lot of people, it’s implicit, but make it explicit. Then really take a hard look at your organization alignment and do some organizational assessment work to ask, ‘How well am I doing?’ If that represents true north, how close am I navigating to true north?
How do you go about helping companies be innovative?
Innovation begins with collaboration. It begins for us by involving all the major stakeholders around an innovation. It could be company leadership. It could be end users. It could be subject matter experts. We involve a broad cross-section of people in a conversation about the innovation and we focus on three core things that define a relationship.
One is the matter of creating value — understanding the value that is needed in the market, understanding the value that a certain idea will deliver to the market. We have a methodology that helps people not only identify the value that they are creating, but also dial up, strengthen and optimize the value that they are creating. Value creation is a core part of the conversation that you have to have in collaboration.
The second pillar involves user-centered design, which basically says as we work with new ideas, we want to be focused on the user experience. You want to be very focused on adding value to the end user. You don’t want to create anything that people are not going to use.
The third pillar of engagement is an agile process. This flows out of the core tenets of agile development, which suggests that you’re working on a project in small increments and you’re constantly delivering real working software to the market. Then you’re listening to how the market reacts to that. Then you’re pivoting and repeating.
How do you develop relationships and understand value creation?
You have to ask and listen. Listen to the concepts and ideas. Listen to what the market is telling you about those ideas and then be creative. It’s a combination of listening and creativity that should fuel those client relationships. You’re constantly listening to objectives, business objectives combined with product objectives, combined with new ideas, combined with user-client feedback, and then you’re thinking creatively about how to respond to that. You have to approach the market with a certain amount of humility.
HOW TO REACH: TrueFit Solutions Inc., (724) 772-5959 or www.truefitsolutions.com