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Do you really have an innovation culture?

11.08.2013
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Organisational mission statements are awash with announcements trumpeting the importance of knowledge and ideas.  They regale at the creativity of their employees, and the innovative culture that supports such free thinkers.

Now, obviously innovation comes in various shapes and sizes.  The popular image of innovation is a revolutionary breakthrough that prompts its instigator to run down the street shouting Eureka, but of course small and simple improvements can be equally innovative.

This post isn’t about those smaller projects that can often be implemented by the person who had the idea and don’t require a huge amount of resource to support it, be that political, financial or human.  Organisations are generally pretty good at those kind of innovations.  Indeed, the whole process improvement movement has sprung up to underpin those smaller, incremental improvements.

This is about the larger projects that do inevitably require support and assistance from others across the organisation.  Too often, employees lack the time or the permission to follow the ideas they come up with, let alone given any kind of financial backing for their innovative thoughts, and as a result, many ideas languish.

As innovation seldom fails through a lack of ideas, how can organisations get better at implementation?  How can they convert more of those ideas into bottom line results?

The following three steps are a good place to start:

  1. Identify the innovators in your organisation – the first step is to identify who your innovators are.  You’re looking for people that tend to think a bit differently to other employees.  People that don’t mind failing now and then or accepting risk as it means getting better.  These people probably love what they do and are actively engaged in learning new things about their field.  Your idea generation processes should be a good place to help you find such people.
  2. Empower them – once you’ve identified your core group of innovators, you need to help them implement the ideas they come up with.  Give them key business challenges to work on as a group.  This could be from departments and areas outside of their traditional base.  You will also need to give this group a means of communicating and collaborating with one another.  This could be a tech based solution or a lo-tech gathering, but they need to be encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas.
  3. Use these intrapreneurs as champions – it will be these core innovators that will help to spread a culture of innovation within your organisation.  The environmental support that is put in place for these early adopters will be key to encourage other employees to get involved.  The process creates a repetitive and ongoing model and provides incentives that keep entrepreneurial talent in-house and rewarded.

How many of these things does your organisation do?

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