Fostering the culture of innovation

Topics Innovation | Technology

What’s the difference between organisational failure and success? Is it funding or vision? Or is it a deep understanding of the market and customer? All of these are true but there is another factor: The best businesses are the innovative ones. It keeps them ahead of the pack and they’re always pushing the envelope.

Also, it's a misconception that innovation is the domain of just a few divisions; any department that focuses on it will outperform others. 

We are witnessing a time of great industry disruption led by technology. This has not only connected individuals and organisations, it has empowered individuals and groups like never before. Busines-ses, therefore, are under tremendous pressure - necessitating a culture of innovation. It is critical to business success.

Here’s how businesses can create and define a culture of innovation.

Join hands: This does not mean you should discourage diverse opinions or disagreements. It means that everyone is heard and eventually a consensus is achieved on the road ahead. This raises motivation levels and participation, and inevitably leads to creative ideas. Make sure also that your intent is communicated to every member of the organisation. 

Hierarchy hampers innovation: Strict and multi-level hierarchies sap creativity. All too often a good idea is lost in layers of permissions and emails bounced from manager to manager. Ideas can be perishable; let them breathe and get out of the way.

Failure can be an important ingredient of success: Failure catalyses learning. Accept that not every idea will work but multiple attempts are often needed to innovate successfully. A culture that respects failure and doesn't fear it will encourage team members to to take risks. The most successful people used failure as a stepping stone; think Ariana Huffington and Richard Branson.

Pride: Being part of a team imparts a sense of belonging and instils pride. It's a huge motivator and can lead to great innovations. 

Freedom: While the freedom to innovate and implement can be achieved in part through the limiting of hierarchy, communicating that the organisation values those that take risks and spread their wings is important. 

Hire right: Find the people who have a passion for what you do, who are committed to constant improvement and learning, and are willing to work hard. And do it fast. In this fast-moving world, talent is in demand and you can't afford to put off creating the right culture.

There must be a rewards system that values ideas more than success or failure. This needs to be part of every employee's performance evaluation, as does recognising initiative before the entire team. Fast-growth plans for the risk takers encourages not just them, but the entire workforce.

There are several routes to institutionalising a culture of innovation. As you can see, it does not always require large budgets or complex plans. Innovation-first is a mindset and it's the leadership's job to create it. It can't be a short-term perspective either. It's for leaders to ensure that innovation goes beyond lip service and the penning down of a couple of ideas. It's an ongoing process that impacts every part of your company and is crucial to success.

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