7 Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation
In my lastÂ post, I covered some of the main reasons why innovation fails in companies.Â In this post I want to focus on how to implement a genuine and sustainable culture of innovation.
How companies can nurture innovation and motivate their talents to bring innovations forward?
Each company is destined to get the results it gets. What I mean by this is that poor organization, lack of solid and sustainable innovation culture lead to poor results, and more than before, to a companyâ€™s trouble or death. A perfect illustration is RIM, which brought the Blackberry to the world in 1999.Â At that time, BB was a revolutionary product.Â What happened is that the company lied on its laurels with its BB product, lacked of aÂ clear strategy about where it wanted to take the product.Â However, according to data compiled by management software companyÂ Mindjet, the majority of businesses either don’t haveÂ effective innovation strategies orÂ don’t effectively seek opportunities to innovate.
Smart business leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation.Â Success and constant positive results come from the implementation and execution of strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies and incentive systems that encourage innovation.
1.Â Define your companyâ€™s mission around innovation.
Many companies donâ€™t have a mission statement, but for those which do, often times statements use generic terms, such as â€œbest product in the worldâ€, â€œbest customer serviceâ€â€¦Â They doÂ not inspire employees to innovate.Â A strong and inspiring vision should be framed around how the company works to change its customerâ€™s world, for the better.
Coca Colaâ€™sÂ mission is toÂ â€œrefresh the world, inspire moments of optimism and happiness, create value and make a differenceâ€.
You build an innovation capability by changing your culture, which requires a lot of hard work. You only see the results of this hard work over time.
2.Â Create the structure to allow employees to experiment new ideas with unstructured time.
Successful innovative companies give time to their employees to get away from their daily tasks, to work on personal or company projects not directly related to their work. ThenÂ tap into this creative process.Google is well known in the tech community for its “20% time,” which gives employees a day a week to follow their passions, but it’s hardly the first company to have done so. For decades, 3M Corp. has allotted 15% of its employees’ time to innovation, which led to the creation of the now-ubiquitous yellow sticky note, among other products.Â When innovation gets postponed for too long, companies languish — witness theÂ reversal of RIM’s fortune andÂ Microsoft‘sÂ vilification in the mainstream media for its failure to innovate.
“Innovation programs remove the constraints that accompany traditional work, and offer a safe space for failure. That lets people try riskier things.”, says Dan Pink, author of the best-selling bookÂ Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.
Seeing innovation asÂ idea management is much more effective than seeing it as just commercialization. In the commercialization view, the only way to win is to have a great idea, protect the IP from it, and bring it to market. In the idea management view, you win by identifying and executing great ideas. They donâ€™t have to be new products; the ideas can be for new ways of doing things, or for new business models. Those are all ideas.
The innovation process needs to manage ideas â€“ not just create new products.
Reward employees with time to think, while providing them with the structure they need.
3.Â Recognize employeesâ€™s contribution to the innovation process.
Some companies offer monetized incentives.Â In mine opinion, it is hard to assign a $ value to innovation; this is good for sales teams.Â Some companies give annual innovation awards; it is a good initiative for a short term, but it creates more competition than it encourages collaboration and creates emulation.
My former employer set up a more robust recognition program (it was around good performance, not innovation, but it can be applied to innovation stimulation).Â It is a peer-based recognition program where employees could purchase a â€œfuzzyâ€ for 50 cents (profits went to a pool for charity donations), and would give the fuzzy to a co-worker to recognize their achievements. â€œFuzziesâ€ circulated around the office and stimulated others to do the same.
4.Â Return to the past.
Debra Kaye, author ofÂ Red Thread Thinking, advises companies to return to the past.Â No new idea is completely original.Â Some concepts may not have materialized for various reasons, but it is always good to look at the past and understand why it did not work out. You avoid future mistakes, you can find ways to better the products (new technology, new process, new skillâ€¦).Â Start-up companies which by definition donâ€™t have a past can look at whatâ€™s be done in the industry, what did not find success, and bounce off this to create something new.
5. Debra Kaye also stresses thatÂ companies should pay attention to culture, not trends.
Culture is mass ideology – a system of values and beliefs that runs so deep we don’t question it.Â There’s an American belief inÂ personal invention and reinvention. You see that in social products like Snapchat and Instagram, which allow us to invent ourselves in the moment. They may seem like a trend. But they reflect a deep underlying value.
Trends are much more superficial. They are hard to get in and out of quickly enough to make money. Kraft came out with CarbWells in 2004, at the end of the low-carb craze. It was a disaster.
6.Â Continuous education (L&L, conferences, seminarsâ€¦).
Self-development is the key to employeeâ€™s success.Â In the same system where company should create a structure for unstructured time, those same companies should create time for continuousÂ education.Â Allow employees to seek new interests, learn and develop new skills.
7.Â Allow failure.
The essence of innovation is that it takesÂ multiple experiments to successfully create new products, solutions, services.Â Failure is part of the innovation process.Â When employees are not afraid of failure, they will feel empowered to take risks and be â€œcrazyâ€.
What reasons do you see for innovation to succeed?Â Share your stories.
image credit: www.ipdigit.eu
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Stephan Vincent is Director of Cultural Transformation at Collidea, a strategic innovation firm in Carmel, IN.Â He is also Founder and President of s.p.IN and Collide Summit Indiana, a first-of-its- kind un-conference unlike anything else. Stephan is a new contributor to IX, sharing insights from his own blog.
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