Friday, August 16, 2019

Cultivate a Culture of Innovation

It takes time and generations of changes within a company to embrace fresh thinking and cultivate a culture of innovation, especially breakthrough innovation.

Although everyone talks about innovation and many companies intellectually understand innovation, they don’t really know how to build innovation into their culture. In many cases, companies of all sizes, especially large corporations have become too dependent on satisfying corporate regulation or protocols, and get sucked in innovation management. In essence, innovation rejuvenation is truly about how to cultivate a culture of innovation and manage a balanced innovation portfolio.

The culture of innovation starts with a culture of participation: In many traditional organizations, innovation is just a buzzword, everyone talks about it, but very few people, especially leaders are creative enough to live on it and knowledgeable enough to really work on it. Innovation happens at the intersection of people and technology; customers and business. Employee engagement in the innovation process increases participation and streamlines creativity flow. Therefore, communication and participation are important to spark creativity and nurture a culture of innovation. To search for disruptive or breakthrough innovation, keep the doors open and be inclusive in your brainstorming and encourage "out-of-the-box" thinking. Design a bigger community and co-create with people outside your customer circles or industries, to connect unusual dots for generating great ideas. People with interdisciplinary knowledge can often produce great ideas and stimulate creative energy because they are able to think more holistically when it comes to new products or designs, and more often, during the early stages of ideation around disruptive innovation. Keep in mind though, the culture of innovation isn’t built in a day, it takes open and bold leadership, long-term strategy, and robust processes and methodologies.

Embed innovation management mechanism into the corporate DNA: Businesses, especially well -established corporations and within that environment, innovations can range from small to game changers. Innovation shouldn’t be serendipitous, it needs to become your business routine; from top-down, you have to live it and breathe it every day. It is important to note that within the organizations, innovation is rarely an individual action; rather, it is a team effort, often across multiple organizational silos. Thus, creative culture is usually outward-looking rather than insular, it’s critical to foster a culture of innovation cross functional disciplines and embed innovation management mechanism into the corporate DNA. Innovation leaders need to ponder deeper: How to stimulate more innovation of the disruptive type? “Stimulation" makes more sense because the faster pace of changes and fierce competitions require businesses today having a bolder attitude and higher innovation competency. For less innovative companies, their people often get stuck in the “comfort zone,” having the “compliance only” mindset. Thus, it is important to create a safe environment for learning from failures, and people are becoming more willing to accept a degree of risk and experimentation, etc. And surely the risk-taking should be supported - morally at least.

Influence and put the right innovation elements to nurture a creative environment: Culture of innovation is a collective mindset and a prerequisite to run a sustainable business these days. Change the culture is the mindset, although you can’t impose the desired culture to your organization, surely you can follow the principles and practices to transform your culture. Disruptive innovation will happen no matter how well you prepare. Great leaders are creative themselves, they can inspire, provoke, empower their innovators and change agents, provide the direction when needed and give others time, space, and freedom to create. To inspire a culture of breakthrough innovation, you should rather reward taking risks, fail fast & forward, and learn from failures to innovate effectively. Culture is the collective mindset, attitude, and behavior. Putting the right innovation elements to nurture a creative environment is about rejuvenating a "culture of innovation" which incorporates multiple and diverse components such as value, trust, communication, collaboration, simplicity, adaptability, and continuous improvement, etc.

The digital era upon us is about innovation with accelerated speed. Without innovation, companies will become irrelevant sooner or later due to hypercompetition and high business velocity. Developing creativity is a long-term endeavor. While you can train somebody to become more innovative or, at least, understand the innovative thinking. It takes time and generations of changes within a company to embrace fresh thinking and cultivate a culture of innovation, especially breakthrough innovation. But it’s the effort worth taking.


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