If you’ve read any of my articles, blogs or white papers before you’ll know how serious I am about reinforcing the importance of culture as a driver of innovation. It’s a fundamental part of the innovation ecosystem and it’s in the word ‘ecosystem’ that CEOs, executive teams and HR practitioners should begin looking for the best example of how corporate cultures around innovation work.
An ‘ecosystem’ is a biological system consisting of all the living organisms or biotic components in a particular area and the nonliving or abiotic component with which the organisms interact, such as air, minerals, soil, water and sunlight.
Just like the ‘ecosystem’ we live in, an organisations culture, especially one focused around innovation is subject to the same level of influences. Culture permeates throughout the very fiber of an organisation and because such, is subject to positive and negative influence from every corner. Culture can’t be controlled but can be influenced so when innovation is on the agenda, the drivers of innovation culture need to be constantly reinforced. Once you switch your organisation on to innovation, there’s no turning back, no switching off!The right cultural focus defines an organisations values, how people should behave, what’s important, what direction to aim for. It defines the organisational common purpose and aligns the effort, collaboration and contribution from everyone involved. A culture of innovation can be the aphrodisiac that differentiates one organisation from another. It’s what inspires your existing people to do things differently and attracts the talent of the future to want to work for you. It’s also what compels customers old and new to see you as the ‘no-brainer choice’ and brand you as the innovation leader.
21st Century competitive advantage is no longer about ‘WHAT’ your organisation does, it’s about ‘HOW’ you do it and that means it’s fundamentally about culture. However, that means it requires a culture that says NO! to the status quo and says ‘NO! to business as usual. Instead it says YES! to disruption of business models and markets, says YES! to creating new experiences and opportunities and most importantly says YES! to doing things, no, everything differently!
In general, entrepreneurial start-ups and spinouts innovate because they say YES to the above. Their immaturity as a business is, in this instance, a blessing, as the rot of size, compliance and maintaining the corporate beast hasn’t yet set in. So, how do existing businesses change and build a culture of innovation in the face of these common barriers?
Building a culture of innovation needs to be approached from a holistic, organisation-wide perspective. It needs to be based on a fundamental and overarching strategy, a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) that drives everything the organisation is trying to achieve. Senior teams and especially CEOs must ‘OWN’ innovation in order to inspire action from the main gatekeepers, middle management, in order that they in turn can inspire the organisations people to do things differently.
With the majority of change programmes around innovation resulting in limited success or failure, the need to understand what kills or drives innovation is paramount. The majority of organisations begin their innovation journey by simply trying to innovate, mainly because most CEOs and senior execs realize that innovation capability is one of, if not the top driver for growth. However, my experience tells me that one of the main reasons why most innovation programmes fail is because organisations start in the wrong place.
In almost every survey over 90% of senior execs say people and culture are the most important factors for driving innovation! With 65% of senior execs also unconfident about how to approach embedding innovation it’s easy to see why the focus remains with ‘just trying to DO innovation’ and why that narrow focus rarely creates enough momentum to positively change culture.
So, if you’re trying to change your culture in pursuit of innovation, here are my 10 biggest innovation killers:
- Asking the organisation for innovation without having a clear and understandable STRATEGY for it.
- A lack of genuine CEO and/or senior team OWNERSHIP of innovation and the ecosystem it thrives in.
- An existing CULTURE that hasn’t been changed to foster the type of behavior innovation requires.
- A focus purely on trying to innovate and create new ‘stuff’ without building people’s CAPABILITY first.
- A perception that radical innovation instead of DIFFERENTIATION is what the organisation requires.
- No clear PROCESS for gathering insight, and turning valuable ideas from invention to innovation.
- No clarity on the MEASUREMENT criteria and performance metrics for innovation success.
- A lack of organisation-wide COMMUNICATION around innovation efforts and its ongoing value.
- No perceived ALIGNMENT between the direction of the corporate strategy and the innovation strategy.
- Not having a word like JUVENDICEED as an alternative to the word mistake when asking people to take risk. (See page 92 of my book)
The quest to compete and drive growth, seek out new opportunities, new revenue streams and create new markets has finally positioned innovation at the center of the strategic radar, so if you’re struggling with any of these issues then get in touch and through this regular blog I’ll try and offer an expert perspective on what you could do to create the right ‘greenhouse’ for innovation to flourish inside your organisation.
Thought Leader, Strategic Advisor & Expert Speaker on Innovation