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Developing an innovative culture

Leadership

Developing an innovative culture

Fostering a culture of innovation is probably the best thing an organization can do to achieve success. It is in an environment that inspires employees to continually search for new and innovative ideas that opportunities are most likely to arise.

The common misconception about innovation is that it tends to appear only at the highest levels of the decision-making process. Instead, smart leaders drive their innovation from all levels of the organization. They do this by working to inspire and sustain the inquisitive nature of their employees.

Sometimes, that can be easier said than done. And for all the benefits that an innovative culture can provide, many challenges can hinder the ability to innovate.

Lack of the right kind of challenges

As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of all invention”; so are the challenges when it comes to an innovative culture. These challenges need to provide the right mix of complexity and interest, without becoming too overwhelming or demanding. Specifically, they need to be achievable.

Many CEOs fail to set such challenges inadequately and, by extension, fail to create an ideal environment for hosting innovation. Many tasks, both the most challenging and the most feasible, can be either too difficult or too easy for employees and managers. As a manager, it is best to take the time to thoroughly analyze the various aspects that define the level of difficulty of each task before assigning it.

Rigid communication

We are all aware that innovation cannot be left in a vacuum. Ideas need to circulate around different parts of the organization and be adapted to meet particular needs.

It is through a free and fluid exchange of ideas, both vertically and horizontally, that innovation really thrives. Think of the technological advances that have taken place in pre-colonial Eurasia and similarly in the Americas, both communicated regions; and compare them with what has happened in more isolated parts of the world, such as Australia, the Pacific Islands or sub-Saharan Africa in the same era.

Therefore, only a rigid and strictly hierarchical communication system within the company can stand in the way of true innovation. Insisting that ideas must pass through several levels of management before gaining official approval will only result in missed opportunities. Integrating active feedback with employees on a day-to-day basis will allow worthy ideas to find their way into the right hands much faster and more frequently.

Misinterpretation of metrics

Measuring innovation is beneficial for constant and predictable improvement. Only by knowing where you are, will you know what your next steps should be. You need to get the right metrics and interpret them correctly to know where you should best focus your efforts.

However, the usual KPIs (key performance indicators), such as revenue and total sales, will not give you a clear enough picture to visualize your next innovation move. When it comes to innovation, performance can be measured in many ways depending mainly on what you are ultimately looking for. You can measure innovation performance by ideas generated or time spent on these innovative initiatives.

A well-grounded innovative culture within an organization is the next logical step for companies to take in the 21st century. By providing the right kind of challenges to employees and allowing them to more efficiently share information with each other, you will be setting the team up for success.

At Inusual we work with our clients to create and foster an innovative culture throughout the organization.

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