Corporate culture is arguably the reason innovation will succeed or fail.
An organisation where innovation is valued and fully integrated into the business will invariably yield more success stories than ones with an innovation program run by a separate department with bright walls and a ping pong table.
There are two sides to the corporate culture story.
One is that innovation must be part of the ethos to foster change in the first instance, and the second is that implementing change without the hearts and minds of your staff will reduce the impact that change has on the business.
The word innovation can spark fear into the hearts of your staff – the result of innovation is change and change might disrupt the apple cart of their harmonious work environment.
So how do you build an innovation culture for change success? This article addresses the fact that innovation must be part of the ethos to foster change in the first place. I have a few thoughts about how to do this and they are outlined below;
For innovation to occur people need to be motivated. This starts with communication. If people understand how they could potentially add value to the business and are given the opportunity to engage with others in their organisation in order to achieve this, ideas will start to flow. Creating events and opportunities where individuals from every corner of the business can meet and consider how they can leverage off each others skills to achieve greatness will kick start the innovation journey. Fundamental to this, is a sense that no idea is off the table and every idea has possibility. Remember the HR person could have the most innovative and disruptive idea that just requires a like minded IT professional.
Share the stories
Once you have some innovative ideas flowing – communicate the success stories so that others can see how the business values innovation. By communicating the stories, you will create business – wide credibility. It is important to identify those ideas that will generate success stories early, ideally these stories will be talked about in the tea room and inspire others to participate as the innovation program embeds into the business. Don’t forget to communicate those ideas that did not achieve their desired outcome but generated lessons that others can use. This process will demonstrate that the business does not punish failure but instead uses it as a building block to pave the way for future successes. (On a side note, I would suggest that this ethos becoming integrated into the business will result in other positive outcomes in addition to creating an innovation culture.)
Provide the space
Inevitably innovation cannot come at the expense of the continued functioning of the business, there will still be targets to hit and budgets to balance. But to enable an innovation culture to stick, managers must enable their staff to take some time to think and experiment without fear of repercussions. If this key piece is not met, the hard work done to engage and communicate with people will be undone by the organisation not living up to the promises it has made to its staff regarding the value it places on innovation. Obviously every circumstance is different, but if you are not willing to give innovation space, then consider if you want to be an innovative company in the first place.
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