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How to Build a Culture of Innovation in Your Organisation

How to Build a Culture of Innovation in Your Organisation

23rd Jun, 2022

Our businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on technology with each passing month and year. Particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, digital technology in the workplace has matured at a staggering pace.

 

Companies across all industries have been demanding more speed, agility, and flexibility since the global shift to remote work, and technology has delivered across the board. Of course, new technologies and digitalizing core business processes also present opportunities to reduce costs, gain competitive advantages, and drive innovation.

 

What is Innovation?

“Innovation” and “innovative” are buzzwords that we hear daily in the current business landscape. In many cases, they’re perhaps even over-used to the point where they lose some meaning.

 

But what is innovation, really?

 

“Innovation is defined as the introduction of new things, ideas or way of doing something.”

In a business context, then, innovation is usually the practice of finding more effective and efficient ways of working. With that in mind, it’s clear why the word innovation is always so closely tied to technology.

 

Innovation comes as a result of harnessing technology in intelligent ways, whether that’s to accelerate or automate processes, build new tools, or create new products and services. So, in essence, innovation could be seen as a catalyst for positive change.

But the issue of change in the workplace is the point at which culture must come into consideration.

Why the Right Culture is Crucial to Successful Innovation?

In your organisation, introducing innovation will inevitably drive change for your employees. For that reason, it’s important to foster a workplace culture that is designed to easily accept and adapt to that change, as well as one that encourages innovation.

 

Without first putting that culture in place, your efforts to innovate will either face resistance, struggle to sustain themselves, or fail entirely.

Many even argue that having the right culture is more important than having a strong strategy when it comes to innovation. Why? Because the people your change affects are the ones who will decide whether it will be a success or a failure.

 

If you plan to launch innovation programmes and introduce new ways of working into your organisation, it’s not good enough to focus only on the technology that will facilitate it.

You must first educate, train, and nurture your employees and help them understand why their work lives are changing. Of course, you also need to help them understand how that change will be beneficial to them. Especially with large percentages of our workforce now working remotely, your workplace culture is more important today than ever before.

 

So, let’s explore some tips for successfully introducing a culture of innovation into your business.

Building an Innovation Culture

1. Understand why things should change

 

Change for change’s sake helps no one.

 

Before you plan to use technology to innovate, you should first determine why it’s important to do so.

 

A wise place to start is to identify a problem you need to solve or an area with clear room for improvement. Ask yourself: What will the consequences be if we don’t solve that problem?

 

This could be done by looking within your business for underperforming departments or outdated processes, or it could be negative feedback you’re receiving from your customers. A good example of this is to always use innovation to try to become more customer-centric and improve the service you deliver to your customers.

 

Once you’ve identified a clear, proven reason for change, tie the innovation initiative to one of your core business goals or strategic objectives, such as increasing revenue.

2. Listen to your workforce

 

Change can seem like a great idea from the luxury of a senior-level position, but in practice, it may end up being a disaster.

 

Before you begin to take any tangible steps towards innovating, speak to the people who it will have the biggest impact on.

Your employees can help you learn lessons from past innovation initiatives, provide feedback on how your current processes are running and even provide new ideas for improvement.

 

Open, honest feedback is a key part of a healthy workplace culture. You should aim to collect feedback from all levels of your organisation on a regular basis and use it to guide you towards positive change.

3. Keep things simple and communicate clearly

 

Once you begin to formulate a strategy for your innovation initiatives, it’s critical to communicate this clearly throughout the entire organisation. Communicate the planned changes clearly and directly, and keep things as simple as possible.

 

Explain why change will be happening, what it will involve, what problem it will solve, and how it will improve the working lives of the people affected. Most importantly, be sure to make it relevant and aligned with your employees’ needs to help foster a culture that’s willing to embrace innovation.

 

One trusted approach is to use the ADKAR framework to communicate the value of your change proposal:

  • Awareness
  • Desire
  • Knowledge
  • Ability
  • Reinforcement

Of course, you must also be prepared to take feedback on board and to answer questions clearly as well, because there will likely be plenty to work with.

4. Build a shared vision or mission to work towards

 

Any innovation initiative that drives organisational change must be accompanied by a clear vision that everyone can work towards. It’s vital that everyone in the organisation is made aware of this vision, is given enough education to understand it, and is empowered to support it.

Top-down mandates for change given without a shared way of thinking won’t work, so you need a shared vision for everyone to get behind together. Your culture should be set up to facilitate systemic change and innovation, with everyone on the same page.

 

The best way to do this is to make your vision customer-centric, or at least designed for the benefit of customers and aligned with the business’s overall purpose.

5. Lead by example

 

Ideas for innovation don’t have to start at the top, but ensuring everyone buys into the importance of your culture does.

 

Leadership is so important when creating a workplace culture, from the C-suite down to your front-line managers. Everyone in a leadership position must lead by example.

 

For innovation to succeed and change to be sustained, it requires the willing adoption of new behaviours and processes. The best way for your workforce to embrace these new ways of working is to witness them consistently from those directly above them, from the top down.

 

Invest the necessary time to get involved in these change initiatives as much as possible, taking opportunities to demonstrate the value of working together towards your shared mission. That will only help the cultural shift towards innovation succeed.

 

In addition, you should invest the necessary budget to make any change as easy as possible for your employees by providing the training or new tools they may need.

6. Celebrate small wins and don’t be afraid of failure

 

Culture change isn’t a short sprint. It’s steady and gradual.

 

As a result, when you’re making changes throughout the organisation, it can often be difficult for people to recognise the value of the change as it’s happening slowly. That’s why it’s crucial to measure even small progress gained from innovation and ensure that success is communicated clearly. Celebrate success often by proactively finding the right stories to tell and highlighting them throughout the organisation to build momentum for further change.

Conversely, you shouldn’t be afraid to fail either, and neither should your employees. Failures are inevitable during an innovation initiative, but they’re also excellent learning experiences. For this reason, your culture of innovation must be based on a willingness to fail and learn from those mistakes.

 

With that said, fail fast, identify what went wrong, and adjust your processes and best practices to ensure those mistakes aren’t made again.

Whether you’re celebrating success or learning from failures, both are signs of a willingness to try new ideas, and that’s the essence of real innovation.

Challenges and Pitfalls to Avoid

There are some common pitfalls many businesses fall into when trying to drive innovation.

 

Using the advice given above, aim to avoid these by taking a more culture-centric approach:

 

1.  Don’t expect people to change their ways of working without explaining why it’s necessary and how it will benefit them. Make sure to clearly communicate the reasoning and value behind your innovation programme throughout the whole organisation before taking any other steps.

2. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for how much change your workforce will tolerate. Instead, set gradual targets for what changes will take place in what timeframes.

 

3. Don’t launch an innovation initiative without first prioritising the people it will affect. You must approach these changes with empathy for the workers that they have an impact on.

4. Don’t release a set of mandates for the workforce without first ensuring the senior leadership team will lead by example. Take proactive steps to demonstrate that the changes will affect everyone, including those at the very top.

How Quality Management Supports Innovation

Innovation and quality control can give a company a competitive advantage in a world where competition is on the rise. Any organisation with an innovation culture will be inspired by the significance of quality management to explore the many forces that drive innovation and to look for novel approaches to produce value using quality management techniques.

According to a Boston Consulting Group poll, 71 per cent of businesses ranked innovation as one of their top three strategic priorities. This is partly attributable to innovation’s capacity to offer distinctive goods and procedures that boost consumer value as well as financial gains for the company.

Quality management is a well-known organisational innovation engine. Linked to operational and financial success, quality management methods can help businesses build long-lasting competitive advantages.

Does your organisation have an innovation culture? What were your challenges, and how have you solved them?

About the author

Anish Roy | Associate Director - Global Marketing

Anish is a business and marketing leader driving growth and performance at Testhouse. He has several years of experience driving business in diverse environments and geographies and helping solve customer problems with the latest technology solutions and services.

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