The greatest companies in the world today are purpose driven and actively seek to improve what they do. In the exploration of creating "better" there are no boundaries and reality is whatever you decide to make it. The paradox is driving the right innovation strategy for the future, whilst keeping the company profitable. The gap for many leaders comes with not having a systematic approach to innovation and focusing more on who's doing what, than what if?
True innovation can be messy and solving something no-one has thought of before is truly unique. Just as Google needed Android to challenge mobile and Apple needed Siri to re-establish itself in search , successful businesses need to constantly evolve and revolutionise how they do things, either through partnerships, new talent or a combination to stay viable. The environment for sustainable innovation is where you write the story.
What do you do if innovation is not at the core of your organisation? Innovation is an ongoing process rather than a single initiative and the skills to accelerate innovation can be learned. Successful companies without innovation at their core, may find the very thing that brought them success can become rigid and stifle the thinking that challenges and provides an opportunity to grow - Kodak and Yellow pages are examples of this.
Innovation can be passive or active. Passive innovation behaviours such as being open to unique ideas are more common than active innovation behaviours of idea generation sessions and encouraging employees to spend more time understanding stakeholder views and less time problem solving. There is s a disconnect between the innovation behaviours leaders think they demonstrate and how their team is perceiving their actions.
So what can leaders do about this? Here are four steps to creating a culture of innovation:
Innovation needs to be prioritized by the organisation, through mission, vision and values and a belief that innovation is essential for the long term success. Positive attitudes around exploration of ideas and frequent communication of the organisational mission is important.
What are the activities with measurable outcomes that will drive innovation? What are your benchmarks of excellence?
What sustainable activities/ processes are happening to support ongoing innovation and turn a good idea into something that will drive the profitability of the company?
Give people the freedom to make mistakes by trying new things and allow your employees to contribute their own unique perspectives, techniques and problem solving skills.
Develop an organisational persona that demonstrates innovation daily. Teams look to the leader more for what they do rather than say. How will you deliver a culture to encourage innovation, so your organisation can deliver something that sets a new standard?
Kerryn is Vice President of Professional Speakers Australia (VIC), Chair of Thought Dynamics, Founding Director of CORE Potential and member of Australian Institute of Training & Development and International Coach Guild.
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