Creating a culture of innovation often gets put to the side in favour of more pressing matters. However, innovation within organisations is what keeps them relevant and agile in an ever-changing economy. As Cimpl explains with the Sigmoid Curve, nothing lasts forever. The answer to this is to ensure your company is launching the next path to success while enjoying the maturity of the previous idea.
So, other than basic survival, why is 'change' beneficial at an organisational level? Your customers are living in the same world as you are. This world is consistently evolving in terms of technologies, capabilities, priorities and competition. Your company needs to learn and even lead the charge. Innovation stems from new ideas and could result in efficiency, staff retention and market leadership.
Yet, only 14% of leaders surveyed by the Centre for Creative Leadership feel confident about their organisation’s ability to drive innovation. In this blog, I’ve identified 10 ways of driving change and innovation.
10 Ways to Drive Innovation within Organisations
1 - Identify the specific challenge.
Expecting a new idea to appear out of thin air won't work. You must define the problem you’re trying to solve. This will give you something to focus on, a starting point towards innovation. If in doubt, ask yourself: what’s keeping my customers awake? Then work out how to take the first step in solving one of those issues.
2 - Test ideas.
Try things out in a fast and structured way. Whether that’s through prototyping, pilot groups, beta testing or surveying, find space in your company for exploring ideas. When I worked for Mars, there was an incubator unit which performed R&D and tested new products out. This links to my third point.
3 - Fail fast.
We’ve heard Thomas Edison’s story: It took over a thousand iterations to make a lightbulb that worked. Another idea that took several attempts is WD40. Do you know why it's called WD40? WD stands for water displacement, and it took 40 attempts to reach a successful product!
4 - Create the right environment.
No one is going to want to fail at all, never mind about quickly, if the culture at work is one of fear and blame. Furthermore, there’s no point putting energy into thinking of innovative ideas if your organisation stops them from coming to fruition. Take a critical look at whether your approval processes are simple and enabling enough. Red tape or hoops to jump through hinder innovation. Removing obstacles requires my next point.
5 - Challenge assumptions.
“This is the way it’s always been” is a common phrase when faced with a new idea. We often assume that there are immovable obstacles or processes. But is that really the case? Ask these questions to challenge your assumptions:
- What would I do if money wasn’t an object?
- Is that a real barrier?
- How would this work if I had as many people as I needed?
- Why, why, why, why, why? (The 5 Whys - or 5Y - is a tried and tested way of getting to the root of a problem)
Challenging assumptions can lead to better ideas, from which you can work backwards.
6 - Put yourself in another’s shoes.
This may help you to challenge assumptions. Consider the issue or question from your client’s/employee’s/prospect’s perspective. If this isn’t something you do often, look at empathy mapping.
7 - Strive for Diversity.
If all your people are the same, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to come up with new ideas. Bringing in talent from a variety of cultures, genders, educational backgrounds, and with different preferences, thinking styles and experience levels introduces different perspectives. Did you know that diversity increases profitability, too?
8 - Engage the whole team.
Involve all members of staff in innovation at some level. It could be as simple as sharing a suggestion forum for submitting ideas or opening up discussions to all employees. In my last blog on team development ideas, I highlighted steps for strengthening team dynamics. I also discussed how Emergenetics profiling can empower better working relationships. Empowering employees will not only increase their sense of agency. It also brings to light challenges and ideas that are often not clear to those in leadership positions. This will, of course, involve…
9 - Making time.
Leaders often get bogged down in day-to-day operations. Make sure to block time out to focus on innovation. Google is famously good at that. The behemoth encourages employees to spend 20% of their time on something that they’re passionate about.
10 - Learn from others.
Talking to people from other teams or sectors gives new insights that help make connections. It readily sparks brand new perspectives and/or an interesting take on a challenge. Other industries might have solved a similar challenge in their space so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Top Tips for Creating a Culture of Innovation
There are common threads throughout my points. Overall, there are 3 distinct areas of consideration if you’re creating a culture of innovation in the workplace:
- People - strive for diversity, involve everyone, understand team dynamics
- Failure - challenge assumptions, a culture of experimentation, learn from mistakes
- Processes - identify the challenges to solve, remove the red tape, create structured time to listen