There’s no doubt that innovation can be the difference between success and failure for a business. Writing for InnovationManagement.se, Simon Mitchell insists that innovation and culture are two sides of the same coin, and the challenge is to foster an environment where people feel empowered to find a better way of doing things.
However, the author admits that it’s a tough challenge, and the established ways of operating – even if they have proved successful in the past – can make it difficult to get new ideas up and running. But Mitchell insists there are a range of steps businesses can take to put innovation at the centre of its culture:
• Set the tone from the top. Mitchell explains: “Leaders need to show that they are willing to take calculated risks and foster a culture of openness and experimentation. They also must ensure that processes are in place that will turn a good idea into something that helps the company’s bottom line.”
• Choose the right leaders. You need a good mix of risk-taking and risk-averse leaders, without either group dominating. Mitchell recommends embedding leaders with a “robust and scientifically proven profile” into selection and promotion systems in order to ensure the right mix of people at the helm of the organisation.
• Develop your own innovation leaders. You shouldn’t look at innovation as something that is either present or not – consider it as a process and discipline that you can establish as the de facto way of operating.
It can be developed both in terms of the organisation’s culture and individuals. Techniques can be used to help leaders and employees think more creatively and develop new ideas to drive innovation. You can include these skills in development plans as specific targets and track them via performance management.
Mitchell insists that innovation will not become part of organisational culture if it is seen as a single initiative. It must be an “organisational persona”, practised every minute of every day and demonstrated in the behaviour of leaders and employees.