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Setting the stage: Tips for building an innovative business cultureHeather
Setting the stage: Tips for building an innovative business cultureWith all of the business decisions that you face in a day, it can be easy to lose focus on the one element which serves as the lifeblood of business. It sets the stage for differentiation, growth and success.
That “it” is innovation. While the idea of innovation appeals to many, the risk often seems too great. Stability and predictability lead to profits, whereas innovation is about adaptation and change—elements that can be difficult to profit from. Do you have an innovation system in place that consistently leads to the realization of value? If not, we have some solid steps that may help:

Step 1: Take an internal innovation audit.
Ask yourself: Is my organization ready?

Gather all of your organization’s chief decision-makers together, because it’s time to ask yourself some hard questions. Set aside a half-day to review your current “innovation factor.” Keep it a light, low-pressure meeting by catering in plenty of munchies and providing colourful pens and complimentary presentation folders or clip boards to store any worksheets or supplementary info.

Questions to answer in pairs or small groups should include:

  • How will your company define a successful innovation program?
  • How will your organization fund the innovation process, and what corporate resources will be available to support the effort?
  • How many task teams will you sponsor yearly? How often will you put together these teams?
  • How much logistical support will be given to your innovation staff?

If you are struggling to answer any of these questions, you may be lacking the support you need to establish a culture of innovation. On the contrary, if those questions are a breeze for you, you’re probably ready to give birth to a culture of innovation in your organization.

Step 2: Focus on culture.
Don’t be afraid to destroy and rebuild.

If up to this point building a culture of innovation hasn’t been part of your plan, brace yourself: You may need to destroy pieces of what you have built. In order to create a culture of innovation where previously there was none, you must re-imagine your organization. Experts suggest mentally rebuilding your company from scratch by asking yourself:

  • How would it be structured, and in what ways would it be innovative?
  • What would the technology look like?
  • Who would you hire, and how would you empower them to think innovatively?

Then, compare those ideas to where your organization is right now. If doing this exercise in a team atmosphere, consider framing it as “building a new, stronger foundation” rather than “destroying what we have now.” Hammer this idea home by providing Building Block Stress Ball giveaways, imprinted with an inspirational message. Have each participant put their ideas onto small slips of paper and deposit them in a piggy bank to show how many contributors to an innovative culture can yield one big impact. Then, let them keep the banks after the session is through to keep their ideas top-of-mind.

As you hone your vision, know that a culture of innovation requires a creative, challenging atmosphere that embraces honest failures. If you pressure employees to deliver on innovations within highly structured production timelines, you essentially squash the muse. Be careful, as usual.

Step 3: Choose your innovators.
When determining whether your organization is ready for a culture of innovation, who did you envision as staff? Turns out, choosing innovative employees is quite different than choosing employees to create a harmonious work environment.

Experts say a surefire way to destroy any sense of creativity and innovation in your workplace is by assembling homogeneous teams. You can bank on some interesting discussions when you bring a diverse group of people together. It may not be comfortable, but team members will push each other outside of their comfort zones—and may help propel you to the next level.

Next time you’re looking for that big idea, invite all types of thinkers with varied backgrounds in on the discussion. Provide these innovators with creative outlets to aide in brainstorming such as easily erasable memo boards or jotters.

As you strive to stretch your organization’s reach and capabilities, take comfort in knowing that the missteps along the way are practice runs en route to potentially launching the industry’s next great innovation…a necessary part of discovering the power of that “it:” innovation.

For more information on the steps outlined above, as well as how to structure an innovative system and embrace efficient prototyping, read our Innovation Blue Paper™ or listen to its Podcast.

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