Nurturing a culture of innovation is probably the best thing a CEO can do to propel their companies towards success. In an environment that inspires employees to seek out new and innovative ideas continually, opportunities are bound to happen.
The common misconception regarding innovation is that it only appears at the highest levels of the decision process. But as it so happens, wise leaders drive their innovation from all levels of the organization. They do so by working on inspiring and sustaining their employees’ inquisitive nature.
It can sometimes be easier said than done, and despite the many benefits that a culture of innovation can provide, several challenges can hinder your ability to innovate.
Lacking the Right Kind of Challenges
As the common saying goes “necessity is the mother of invention,” so are challenges when it comes to a culture of innovation. These challenges, however, need to provide the right mixture of both complexity and interest, all the while not being too overwhelming or demanding. In short, they need to be achievable.
Many fail to deliver these sort of tasks the right way, and by extension, fail to create the environment perfect for harboring innovation. Many challenging and viable tasks may be either too difficult or too easy to both employees and themselves. As a manager, it’s best to take your time and thoroughly analyze the various aspects that define the difficulty level of each task, before you assign them.
We’re all too aware that innovation can’t happen in a vacuum. Ideas need to circulate and get around to different parts of the organization and be adapted to fit those particular needs.
It is through the unencumbered and rapid exchange of ideas, both vertically and horizontally, that innovation indeed thrives. Think of the technological advancements made in pre-colonial Eurasia, and to a similar extent the Americas, as opposed to the more isolated parts of the world such as Australia, the Pacific Islands, or Sub-Saharan Africa of that same era.
Thus, a rigid and strictly-hierarchical communication system within an organization can only stand in the way of real innovation. Insisting that ideas need to go through several levels of management before getting an official approval will only result in missed opportunities. But by integrating an active employee feedback loop into your day-to-day process, the merited ideas will find their way into the right hands much faster and more often.
Misreading the Metrics
Measuring innovation is incremental for constant and predictable improvement. It’s only by knowing where you are at; that you know what steps need to be taken next. You need to follow the right metrics and interpret them correctly so that you know where to focus your efforts best.
Nonetheless, the usual KPIs, like revenue and total sales, will not give you the clear-enough picture to envision your next move. When it comes to innovation, however, performance can be measured in much larger number of ways, depending mostly on what you’re ultimately looking to achieve. You can measure innovation performance concerning ideas generated, or in time spent on innovation initiatives.
A well-grounded culture of innovation within an organization is the logical next step for an organization in the 21st century. By providing the right kind of challenges to your employees, and allowing them to better share information between themselves, you will be on your way there. Just make sure to keep a watchful eye on your progress so that you reach your destination as fast as possible.
Question to reflect: Are you cultivating a culture of innovation?