One of the major challenges to any organisation is figuring out how to effectively promote and manage innovation across the business. Having worked with a number of technology and financial services organisations, one thing is clear to me – systematic innovation is not driven by luck. Organisations that are consistently able to innovate do so through the purposeful management of their innovation processes. I have identified five key topics, which in my opinion are essential to creating an innovative workplace.
1. Innovation is everyone’s job
Are you a trailblazer or a follower? Most people in organisations do not think of themselves as innovators. As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon to hear about cases where managers discourage their teams from coming up with new ways of doing things — forcing them instead to follow existing procedures and stay within entrenched guidelines, fearing that challenging the status quo will backfire.
What forward-thinking organisations have in common is the fact that they do not rely purely on a small number of people in their R&D departments or innovation units to come up with new ideas. Instead, they build and nurture a culture in which everyone is entrusted and empowered to innovate. Innovation does not happen (only) in labs and does not stop at product development. Innovation happens across all the departments and includes new processes, business models, services, partnerships, workplaces, and philanthropy.
Involving everyone in your organisation in innovation leads not only to better offerings but also to higher customer satisfaction, personalised customer experience, employee satisfaction, new partnerships and higher revenue. By getting all your employees involved you generate ideas your traditional innovation departments would not come up with.
2. Build capabilities for learning and innovation
Innovation does not happen without learning. Learning processes are critical antecedents of innovation and there are several steps that need to happen before your organisation will be able to embark on the new journey. In the previous paragraph, I argued that innovation is everyone’s job, but in order to make it everyone’s job, we would need to ensure that we have an emotionally positive work environment and high employee engagement. Your employees will not participate in the new innovation initiatives if you do not ensure a learning culture evidenced by “permission to speak freely”.
Any organisation that is about to change the culture of innovation needs to put in place a culture, leadership behaviours, structure, HR policies, and rewards to promote learning behaviours. Establish processes for high-quality learning conversation and collaboration and you will see a significant improvement in your innovation processes.
3. Collaborate and discover
Technology alone is not enough to get your company to the next stage of the transformation journey. The key to success is collaboration. Collaboration and an open mindset to discover new ways of thinking and working increase levels of participation and motivation. It pulls people together and provides a ground for experimentation, building consensus and fostering innovation.
Collaboration in the modern age does not stop at internal stakeholders. The most successful organisations have managed to build strong collaborative ties with their partners, customers, resellers, and other stakeholders. And while technology is not enough to help you innovate, in my mind, the future belongs to the organisation that will be able to learn, complement, and capitalise on artificial intelligence and machine learning, taking the collaboration to the next level and allowing for the exploration of humans and machines working together.
4. Build better networks
How do you connect various parts of the business? Do you have a platform that enables your teams to collaborate? Organisations need to keep evolving and innovating just to stay abreast of what is happening in their industries, with their partners, and customers.
For many firms, building networks means moving employees across functions, businesses, and countries. While I cannot really criticise this approach, as it does promote career development and shows that organisations are investing in their employees’ growth, this approach is not scalable.
Instead, companies should consider how collaboration technology can enable them to build better networks and allow their employees to work in a more productive way.
With the right platform, there is no need for leadership structure or pre-selecting members to form networks. This does not mean that there is no place for leadership or specialists in the network environment, though. My point is that with the right platform, you will start seeing “organic” growth of networks around specific interests or issues. Networks are the backbone to being able to deliver successful collaboration, which in return, will result in fostering an open, engaging and innovative workplace.
5. Set goals and measure progress
Now that you have created a culture of innovation and got everyone involved, how do you measure success? Measuring innovation has always been tricky. It is not as straightforward as measuring revenue growth or campaign ROI.
Try to think first about the intended results for your organisation and the different stages at which innovation happens (ideation, evaluation, selection, re-iteration, development, implementation). Based on that, we can start measuring how many ideas have been created, what was the quality of those ideas, how many ideas have been implemented or resulted in process reiteration, and finally, what was the end result. These are just some ideas of what and how to measure.
Innovation and the Customer Experience
The end goal of most corporate innovations should ultimately influence the customer experience. In this Innovation and the Customer Experience e-book, you will learn more about innovation as a discipline, being deliberate with innovation, breaking the rules and getting inspired. If you are interested in creating a culture of innovation in your organisation, it is a must-read.