6 Ways to Create A Culture Of Innovation

REWARD EMPLOYEES WITH TIME TO THINK, WHILE PROVIDING THEM WITH THE STRUCTURE THEY NEED.
WRITTEN BY Soren Kaplan

Every organization is designed to get the results it gets. Poor performance comes from a poorly designed organization. Superior results emerge when strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies, tools, and reward systems fire on all cylinders in symphonic unison.

Savvy leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation. They know that it’s culture–the values, norms, unconscious messages, and subtle behaviors of leaders and employees–that often limits performance.

These invisible forces are responsible for the fact that 70% of all organizational change efforts fail. The trick? Design the interplay between the company’s explicit strategies with the ways people actually relate to one another and to the organization.

Here’s how to influence the soft stuff.

NOTE: I’ve condensed the content to highlights, but you can read the entire article here.

 

1. BE INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR INNOVATION INTENT

Most corporate visions and missions sound alarmingly alike: Become the #1 provider of blah, blah, blah. These generic, broad-based goals might rev up sales teams, but they do little to spark ingenuity. Perhaps the worst thing a company can do is give “innovation marching orders” without any guide posts. That’s when the focus gets lost and teams spin their wheels.

 

2. CREATE A STRUCTURE FOR UNSTRUCTURED TIME

Innovation needs time to develop. No one ever feels like they have time to spare. People get so consumed with putting out fires and chasing short-term targets that most can’t even think about the future.

3. STEP IN, THEN STEP BACK

Providing “free” time for employees to experiment with new technologies, products, or processes can catalyze the next big thing. But too many companies–and the consultants they hire–attempt to over-engineer the innovation process. A better option: Give just enough structure and support to help people navigate uncertainty and tap into the creative process without stifling it.

 

4. MEASURE WHAT’S MEANINGFUL

Management guru Peter Drucker once said, “What’s measured improves.” Said another way, You get what you measure. For many companies, coming up with ideas often isn’t the problem. The challenge is turning them into something real that delivers an impact. So what metrics should you use?

5. GIVE “WORTHLESS” REWARDS

Recognizing success is critical, but most companies stop there. An annual innovation award is just not enough to catalyze a culture of innovation. Sure, formal rewards are good for the short term–but they don’t keep people truly engaged. The most powerful and robust type of recognition–the kind that shapes organizational values–often occurs more informally.

6. GET SYMBOLIC

Symbols represent the underlying values of an organization, and they come in many forms–values statements, awards, success stories, posters in the hallways, catch phrases, acronyms, and, yes, those wooden nickels. Those who intentionally curate the innovation symbols of their companies essentially curate their innovation cultures.


NO RUBBER STAMPS
Every company’s culture is inherently different. So when you’re cultivating innovation, you’re cultivating a unique system. Which means you have to be thoughtful about your approach. Whatever you do, it should align with the values of the company and with the company’s goals. And in each case, you have to make it easy and rewarding for the people whose roles and dynamics influence the very innovation culture you’re trying to cultivate.

 

6 Ways to Create A Culture Of Innovation

[Image: Scribbles via Shutterstock]

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