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Sustainable Innovation: People, Management and Technology

Updated: Apr 3

If we dig into the topic of sustainable innovation, we are going to observe that there is no precise or commonly agreed-upon definition of it. Arthur D. Little (2004) defined sustainability-driven innovation as “the creation of new market space products and services or processes driven by social, environmental or sustainability issues”.

However, as with general innovation, there are no boundaries to it. It should not be limited only by entrepreneurial challenges but also, it can be the adoption of new processes and systems at a societal level.

“Sustainable innovation is a process where sustainability considerations (environmental, social, financial) are integrated into company systems from idea generation through to research and development (R&D) and commercialization. This applies to products, services, and technologies, as well as new business and organization models.”

Now that we have covered the definition of it thanks to various internet sources, I would like to emphasize two following topics, what have we done at ATL Group so far and how sustainable innovation can reshape the future.

Since we established ATL Group in 2012, we have been keen on focusing on the sole thing, efficiency of management and system. We have tried various approaches, systems, and guidelines and even employed a multinational board of directors at one point, to identify the best suitable ways for an Azerbaijani-based company can thrive in its given natural habitat, moreover to break the stereotypes of how “things are being done in this place”.

From various experiences and numbers of successful and unsuccessful trials, I will pinpoint at a few major approaches we have applied at ATL Tech, which is part of our group and is a leading software development company in the country.

Idea meritocracy

As you may observed from various publications and posts by me, one of my favorite books of all time is Principles by Ray Dalio the founder of Bridgewater. One of many reasons why that book is my favorite is that, it taught the philosophy of idea meritocracy in a very refreshing way.

Since the beginning of 2019, we have implemented this strategy successfully. Idea meritocracy according to Ray is as follows “An idea meritocracy – a system that brings together smart, independent thinkers and has them productively dis-agree to come up with the best possible collective thinking and resolve their disagreements in a believability-weighted way – will outperform any other decision-making system.”

What does that mean in action though? We choose a few techniques to follow this principle.

1.      The top management of ATL Tech is having monthly meetings and a strategic meeting once a year. We email each employee the minutes of that meeting outlining our successes, goals, targets, failures, and decisions. By doing this, we are adopting “radical transparency”.

2.     We persuade our 110 employees to constantly share their ideas as most innovative companies do. However, we took a few steps further. During the year, we have conducted multiple anonymous and non-anonymous surveys to focus on two key things, how we lead better and how much more efficient we can get. We promoted the understanding that “We as management of ATL Group do not care where the idea comes from and who generated it, the only thing that matters is the merit behind the idea and how it will add value to the company”. We did not limit ourselves to this statement alone we also created various chances for our employee to speak their minds face-to-face. Since we implemented this principle, I stopped checking the suggestion box we had in our office for years (and yes, I was the only one with the key).

By applying these two above, we make sure that every team member understands where we are going and what sort of ideas can add value to the company. Subsequently, they do their best to move this company forward and while they do that, we as management of ATL Group have to keep an open mind all the time and be ready for change.

Platforms and tools, we have embedded in our organization

1. The structure of our technical team was adapted to the agile scrum methodology.

2.     We have implemented Slack and Jira for the management of our software development projects.

3.    Zoom collaboration video call. I would like to elaborate on this one for a particular reason. A few of our brilliant team members came up with the idea of a system where we allow our employees to sign into our systems and work from home or any other desired location. Yes, you got it right. Our team members at ATL Tech are not obligated to come into the office to fulfill their tasks and they can attend the meetings via Zoom/skype.

4.    As another example our marketing team at ATL Group Consulting utilizes the bitrix24 platform to manage their daily tasks.

5.    Application of DevOPS system at ATL Tech.

6.    We approve and create various requests (vacation, purchase, work trip, day off, car booking) via ATL Group Portal, an internal self-developed software to minimize paperwork and time consumption.

7.     Recently, we have launched the internal usage of our recruitment management system called Talhunt, where HR and team leaders can create vacancies, search, assess, set interview dates, and store all our employee enrollment processes virtually. For this achievement, I would like to thank the team members behind Talhunt.


First of all, I have always tried to hire the best specialist I could find and for years we have tried to do our best to value them, re-educate them, and create a long-lasting relationship with them both personal and professional. Due to the recent recess of 2015, since then we have observed that almost 40 of our employees immigrated overseas and started working for companies like Facebook, Accenture, Hub Group, Ernst and Young, Volvo, etc. We do understand that there are various reasons for immigration and the problem isn’t just about the working environment we have created, there are more macro-economic reasons for that, which I will be focusing on in my future posts.

Despite such factors, we have successfully managed to come out strong with a very talented group of individuals. The basis of the “people” headline is the simplest of all.

I value 2 things before hiring a specialist: does he/she have the skill set to do the job and will she/he add value to the company?

Long story short, tolerance and diversity is achieved by having an open mind. I do not factor in education and past performance as much as I focus on the skill while disregarding any attributes related to the individual's origin. Furthermore, regardless of gender, age, race, religion, and education level, anyone can be part of ATL Group.  I believe that the selected hiring strategy is getting us closer to our goals and past years’ performance is proof of it.

As I said before, there are no exact definitions of sustainable innovation, due to its nature. My take on this topic of reshaping the future might not be conventional, however, in my opinion, there are various ways to tackle it. I think that individuals, organizations, and societies should have clear observations on where they are and where they want to be. Only after this, they can explore various ways of improving their efficiency in the wide understanding of this world. There is no coaching to it, every habitat and environment differs in so many ways, and the best way to pursue is to start off with research.



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