August 12

Agile Innovation

When we talk about creating a culture of innovation, one topic which inevitably comes into play is the need for businesses to move towards the Next Generation Organisation ideals of intelligence, collaboration and adaptability. On the face of it, each of these traits is fairly simplistic; but it is only when you delve beneath the surface that the true depth of change required to instil these traits into an organisation becomes clear.

As with many other words in common business parlance, it is all too easy for the waters to become muddied, as single words are given different connotations by those who use them. After all, when some people still use invention and innovation interchangeably, it’s no wonder that confusion arises. And this is the danger in business; when there is confusion about how a particular word or phrase translates into action or when leaders embrace a new idea without fully understanding what’s required to fully embed that idea into the organisation then inevitably the results are less than ideal.

Take agile working for example. A 2014 CIPD paper listed the top traits of an agile business as including;

“a high-performance culture, flexibility of management practices and resources, and organisational structures that support collaboration, rapid decision-making and execution.”

Using this definition, agile working would appear to require a business wide organisational and cultural change. Contrast this with a recent article in the Law Society Gazette, which implied that agile working was synonymous with hot desking. The implication may be misleading and it could well be that the article was citing hot desking as one element of a move towards agile working; but from our work with organisations who are looking to build a culture of innovation, it is easy to see how culture change can be watered down by adopting a pick and mix approach.

The danger with this is that the change doesn’t produce the expected results, the leadership move on to another idea and employees start to suffer from change fatigue. If leaders are serious about changing the culture to meet current and future business needs then they will considerably enhance the chance of success if they firstly understand what they will be asking of their organisation, secondly take steps to understand where their organisation is now and then follow a defined process which is designed to optimise the chance of a successful culture change.

This is particularly important when looking to move towards a culture of innovation, which seeks to deliver game-changing solutions through intelligence, collaboration and adaptability. As the innovation ideal infuses the entire organisation, everything from attitudes and expectations to processes and performance may have to be re-evaluated. And whilst every organisation will have its own individual level of innovation maturity and preferred innovation mix, those seeking to build a culture of innovation within their organisations cannot get away with picking bits they like and leaving the difficult transformations aside.

Innovation culture change is not rocket science, but it does require understanding, determination and, above all, leadership. If you are serious about developing future-focused, innovation-led strategies and/or building a culture of innovation then get in touch.


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