Building a Culture of Innovation

Growing a Culture of Innovation

We talk about innovation a lot — its processes and the optimum method of supporting it — but how do we lay the groundwork for a culture of innovation in the first place? If we bring the tools of innovation into our organization, how do we achieve engagement, curiosity, respect, and excitement for them?

Consider some of the following ideas:

  • Stop Making All of the Decisions Yourself – If one person in an organization contributes all the ideas and makes all the decisions, the team blindly follow. Other team members will be unlikely to volunteer suggestions or devote any of their own innovative talent to the group, and this is a huge loss. Focus on being a leader who encourages others to make decisions. This will encourage discussion and promote open sharing of ideas, both of which lead to innovation and positive change. Delegating decision-making power is one primary way of building a culture receptive of innovation tools.
  • Allow Mistakes – Mistakes should not be frowned upon. In fact — in a manner of speaking — a certain rate of mistakes is a sign of organizational health, especially where trying out new ideas is concerned. This is how we learn. Some mistakes are actually necessary for innovation to be realized. If your employees are afraid they might lose their jobs if they make any mistakes at all, you can bet they will not lean toward innovation in their attitudes, or be likely to put themselves ‘out there’ to try new ideas.
  • Don’t Encourage Chicken-Runners – Chickens often skitter from place to place with frantic urgency that sometimes amuses humans. However, some workplaces put so much emphasis on ‘now, now now!’ and the appearance of business that a similar spectacle is produced! Instead, create an environment where team members are encouraged to slow down, take a breath, and periodically reflect on what they’re doing. There is an optimum pace where productivity and innovation are in balance, and where innovative ideas are fostered and allowed to grow. If the moment-to-moment pace is so hectic that nobody can think for themselves — much less talk over a new idea with the team — then the culture of innovation you are trying to grow will fail.
  • Create Healthy Competition – Human beings are wired to be creative. Combining creativity with healthy competition can be extremely productive, particularly when it comes to innovation. If you need something new and exciting to be developed, try dividing departments into teams and encourage them to ‘get out there’ and create the next big idea. Offer prizes and bonuses as a way to encourage this. This is a great way to get more of your team involved in the innovative spirit and to have a bit of fun.

Innovation should not be viewed as the special talent of only an elite few. Everyone at every level of the organization should be involved, or feel strongly that they are invited and encouraged to take part. Some might feel that they are not ‘creative types’; they need to be reminded that creativity and innovation are two separate virtues. Creativity is about original, novel ideas, but bouncing that raw idea off others who, in turn, refine it little by little leads to true organizational innovation.