Innovation

Innovation Principle #1: Build It into the Culture

March 1, 2017

Innovation is critical to survive and thrive in today’s business climate. The ability to competitively differentiate and consistently reinvent can make or break a company.

In their landmark Global CEO Study, IBM found that creativity ranks above integrity and global thinking as the most important leadership quality. Creative leaders are more likely to innovate rather than sticking to the status quo, and are therefore considered more adept at adapting to fluctuating economic conditions and competitive markets.

But, how do you innovate? This new Innovation Principle series sets forth a series of ideas around becoming better innovators. First up: Build It into Your Culture.

Innovation Can, and Should, Be Built into Culture

Innovation is not a switch that can be turned on and off, or a tool that can be deployed. An innovative company isn’t built with free donuts in the conference room over a whiteboard exercise, nor does it last after an offsite meeting.

Innovation inside a company is an ongoing attitude, a supportive environment, an everyday atmosphere. Innovation is a culture that has to be built and reinforced.

Think Holistically about How You Approach Building Innovation

Most leaders want their company to be innovative but don’t know how to do it. Building an innovative culture in any organization requires a holistic approach because culture is built on so many factors. It’s certainly not something you can buy. As the Little Black Book of Innovation points out, “Innovation is a predictable discipline.” It requires planning.

9 areas

9 Areas for Evaluating and Addressing Your Approach to Innovating Within:

  1. Organize your vault of ideas and innovation initiatives transparently so that teams know what they are and can access them somewhere.
  2. Have a calendared schedule relating to key problems or initiatives you’d like to address.
  3. Have a process for how you ideate, collaborate, and evaluate.
  4. Create a plan for pulling engagement top-down and bottom-up.
  5. Provide rewards for the best contributors.
  6. Give recognition to highlight that innovation matters.
  7. Measure innovation indicators, such as ideas submitted, time spent, dollars invested, actions taken, or ROI generated.
  8. Execute by tracking who’s assigned to which action items, where people actually spend time: on ideas/initiatives vs. just discussing.
  9. Train the team on how to be creative and why innovation matters.

Make it Routine to Reinforce the Theme to the Team

Whether you want to start small or approach the topic holistically, the key is to routinely create opportunities for idea generation and discussion while respecting your team’s input. Regularly recognizing key contributors and giving rewards incentivizes more contributions.

When the team knows the ideas are important to the success of the company, and its not another fly by night initiative, they’ll take it seriously. Involving your entire team in ongoing innovation efforts imbues a sense of responsibility and ownership among all involved, setting the stage for an embedded, ongoing innovation culture.

Founder and CEO of Fresh Consulting, student of all things creative, innovative, and fresh, professional snowboard instructor trainer, father.

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