innovation culture

Driving an Innovation Mindset Within Your Corporate Culture? Here’s What Matters Most.

Staying ahead of the pack has always has been the key to survival in the business world, but now, as the rate of change hits warp speed – compared to the past anyway – innovation has become the imperative. It’s rest and rust, change or die.

So, as might be expected, there’s no shortage of advice out there on how to drive this within your organization and to create a purpose-filled culture of creativity.

One of the more recent bits of wisdom comes from Harvard Business Review, which advocates, among other things, tolerating failure but not incompetence.

What does this mean? It depends on the nature of the business. If you’re a restaurant, for example, you replace a bad chef with a good one. Although the good chef might not nail it every time, which can sometimes be the case when trying something new, an incompetent chef will often fail.

At the same time, notes HBR, failure should be tolerated in order to learn from mistakes, though not without discipline. Companies (and even restaurants to some extent) should ”select experiments carefully on the basis of their potential learning value, and … design them rigorously to yield as much information as possible relative to the costs.”

Reward, Communicate, and Collaborate 

Other Web-based wisdom on driving innovation includes rewarding it, dedicating time to it, and keeping all employees in the loop on customer issues and needs and competitor activity. This way, everyone at every level knows where improvements and changes are needed and can suggest solutions.

Companies should also:

  • Encourage innovation in all areas and not just the obvious (the product). As is Google’s practice, look for ideas everywhere.
  • Create a process in which employees with good ideas can bypass their managers if needed and connect with innovation champions within the organization.
  • Give employees the time and space to innovate, but within reason. Recognize that smaller companies can’t emulate those with far greater resources and still meet customer needs.
  • Collaborate: not only with employees, but with suppliers, customers, and any other individuals/entities that can add value.
  • Embrace AI. As Salesforce blogger Greg Wasowski notes, “the future belongs to the organisation that will be able to learn, complement, and capitalise on artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
  • Solicit honest feedback, good and bad, and encourage employees, clients, and others to look at what’s broken or missing within your company.
  • Avoid making change just for its own sake. This can be counterproductive, especially among employees already overwhelmed by change fatigue. It’s not always necessary to be an early adopter, particularly if an existing process or tool is working well.

Why Psychological Safety Matters Most

In addition to some or all of the above, many agree that what’s really needed most (and should in fact be the first consideration) is an organizational culture of trust and psychological safety. Within such an environment, employees feel free to speak openly, even when criticizing or challenging management, without being reprimanded, rejected, embarrassed, or shamed.

To create a psychologically safe culture, an open and respectful workplace is essential. Also, as Soren Kaplan notes in Fast Company, management should ensure that it understands the “values, norms, unconscious messages, and subtle behaviors of leaders and employees.” These not only tend to limit performance, but are the reason that more than half of all organizational change efforts fail.

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