If you want your people to be innovative you can’t just tell them to do it. Even if your business creates a dedicated team of innovation specialists, without the right culture in place, their best ideas will never get off the ground.
Last week ExperiencePoint’s Andrew Webster, VP of transformation, and Stephanie Tait director of delivery hosted a webinar on this topic to help listeners figure out where their innovation efforts are going wrong.
In Transforming Cultures to Unlock People-Driven Innovation, Webster and Tait explore what makes a truly innovative company, and why corporate culture can make (or break) an innovation effort.
“A winning overall business strategy, a focused innovation strategy, deep customer understanding, talent and the ability to successfully execute are all vital to business success,” Webster declares. “But more important than any of these individual elements is how an organization behaves, feels, thinks and what it believes in.”
He points to data from PwC’s Global Innovation 1000 study, which shows that only about half of companies researched say their corporate culture robustly supports their innovation strategy. It also found organizations with cultures that don’t support innovation strategies are poorly aligned strategically, and significantly underperform against competitors.
In other words: having a culture that supports innovation delivers proven business benefits.
Corporate culture may not seem like a very relevant factor in the innovation conversation, but research paper after research paper finds that culture is in fact the most difficult barrier for innovation. “Too often leaders view innovation simply as the process of developing new ideas and approaches,” Webster points out. They assume that adding a few “innovation experts” to the team, or even opening an innovation lab will fast-track these efforts.
But innovation is about more than employing a few people with good ideas. If all the same red tape, decision-making hierarchies, and culture of risk aversion stays the same, those ideas can never take shape. Innovation may begin with developing exciting solutions, but how they take shape depends on how the company organizes itself to innovate day-to-day.
Throughout the webinar, Webster and Stait offer tips and insights into why corporate culture can crush even the best innovation strategy, and how companies can evolve their culture to be more innovation-friendly. Here are a few ideas that emerged.
Companies need to make everyone the innovators, creative thinkers and confident problem-solvers. Innovation is “people driven,” which means these capabilities need to be taught to every employee so the company as a whole can be innovative. “You have to have an impact on the parts before you impact the whole,” Webster says.
Innovation is a skill that can be taught. Of course, the world is full of natural born innovators who were born to think differently about the world. But these geniuses can also be made. This is good news, because it means you don’t need to spend a lot of money hiring innovation experts to make your company great. You just need to develop the untapped innovation skills in your existing employees.
Make people understand where and when innovation can happen. Innovation requires inspiration, but it also needs a framework that people understand. Leaders can create that framework by defining what innovation means for each function and job level, what role each employee plays in the innovation process, and what they can specifically contribute to the success of innovation. Giving people permission and a little guidance can go a long way toward enabling that inspiration to happen.
Innovation can (and should) be measured. If you want to motivate employees to engage in innovation as part of their day-to-day jobs, set measurable objectives against innovation for every function and employee. Then give them the resources, structure and space they need to make that innovation happen.
To hear more advice and lessons learned on how to create a culture of innovation that generates measurable business results, go to experiencepoint.com to listen to the entire webinar. Then let us know what you think!
Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Kickstart Innovation: A Guide for Organizations.