Innovation is a prized word in our society. We have only to look at the kings of Silicon Valley and the unexpected success of that one great idea to be inspired by its power. The power to seize upon an idea and then carry it through to game-changing, successful fruition seems like a dream come true to so many in the world of business. But in order to have that great idea, birth it into the world and watch it grow requires a culture that creates and fosters an innovation culture.
The question is, how do you do it?
There are many thoughts on the subject, but at the heart of it, they all come back to the same thing: you must become a culture that expects the unexpected, and rewards the generation of ideas.
That sounds quite easy, right? Notice the adjective “successful” didn’t precede “ideas.” That’s because not all of them work. In order for a culture of innovation to thrive, you can’t dismiss the small ideas. You can’t say your company is too big to waste time on those small ideas. You can’t reprimand creative problem solving. You can’t tell people to stay in their lane and only think about their own roles. You also can’t fear change on behalf of your employees. But the most important part of creating an innovation culture is that you can’t rest on your laurels. You can’t think doing fine is good enough. You must constantly seek the next thing, the new mountain to climb, or that next big idea that will transform your business and, quite possibly, the world.
As a former Fortune 200 Chief Human Resources Officer, I’ve run into my fair share of executives who think that culture is an afterthought, that it’s HR’s problem. But it isn’t HR’s problem: it’s a corporate responsibility. Without culture, all the analytics, reports, plans, charts and graphs mean absolutely nothing. People are what create those products and keep the lights on, and the culture you create defines how your company runs and how successful it will inevitably become.
Creating a culture that prizes new ideas means that everyone from the mailroom to the C-suite has a chance to come up with that big idea, that one nugget of inspiration that could transform the entire game. Not only does everyone have a hand in creating your future, but all of you stand to be rewarded by it. Big time. Who wouldn’t want to work in an innovation culture?
Creating a culture centred around innovation takes dedication. Utilising the four principles of my proprietary decision-making tool, The Capacity Framework, you can quite easily see how to do it:
Create a Vision for your company and your brand around innovation. What would that look like? Years from now, what would your industry, competitors, media and candidates say about that vision?
Next, implement a strategy to create it. What changes would have to be made to your current structure? If you’re creating a new culture, how would it work? What types of people would be needed? What skill-sets would make for a robust think-tank that can also act and drive for results?
The next step is to think about solutions around the culture. What barriers to innovation could exist? What market conditions could make it difficult? How do you ensure you hire the right individuals to support the culture you desire to create? Define these solutions and implement them.
Finally, think about how a culture of innovation affects your leadership brand. What types of leaders create an environment that fosters creativity? How would they work with their teams? How do they inspire? How are they reviewed and rewarded? Create the brand, and set the guidelines.
Creating a culture of innovation is one of the most vital aspects of survival in our world of business today and in the future. In an ever-changing world that seems to prize the next technology faster than we can adapt to the last one, innovation is what creates corporate capacity for the future. The best part: you can start crafting this culture today.