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Create a Culture of Innovation

A positive and proactive response to the Turnbull Government’s Innovation Statement will be to create or cultivate the culture of innovation within your team or business.  Incorporate the five essential factors outlined in this article and do better that fail fast.  Build a pathway to succeed sooner. 

Innovation.

It’s about new ideas, new products and services; new ways of doing things.

Different isn’t always better, but better is always different.

The kind of innovation that will take a business, or indeed the country forward will be the ideas and initiatives that are different and better.

How can you cultivate a culture that knows the difference? What kind of culture shortens the odds through purposeful, informed and customer-centric innovation?

It is certainly not simply enshrining an insistence on getting things right. Fear of failure is an impediment to innovation. Fail fast. But surely it’s better to build a reliable capability for invention, innovation and agility; a practiced discipline that inspires confidence in the likelihood of success.

This is possible. It is not something that will happen overnight, however, it is possible to design and deliver an organisational development process that will create the culture and people capability to thrive in an innovation hungry world.

The way to increase the chances of your innovative ideas and solutions being the ones that will fly:-

1) INTERROGATE REALITY – KEEP IT REAL

Connect to the defining context in which your team, your product or services exist. Adopting an evidence-based approach to determining what is happening in your environment. Avoid soft thinking and an over-reliance on intuition. You can use big data or little data. Customer feedback or methodical observation. Engage the subject matter experts. Essentially you want accurate answers to these kinds of question:-

  • What are the unmet needs?
  • How has our environment changed such that opportunities for new and better exist?
  • Who stands to benefit from what we can create?

2) ENLIST YOUR CREATIVE TEAM – CAST WELL

John Kotter describes this as your guiding coalition. Gather the people who can contribute. Gather a diverse team; people with different sensitivities and perspectives, different talents and motivation, or if the team already exists, celebrate and leverage the diversity in the team. Your aim is to assemble and connect a comprehensive set of eyes, ears and brains covering all aspects of your environment. A suggested list includes:-

  • Subject matter experts – the people who know what is happening and why
  • Business owners – the people who are accountable
  • Customers – the people who will buy and use it
  • Frontline employees – the people who sell or service it
  • Frontline leaders and managers – the people who will shape the environment in which the transactions take place
  • Product engineers and developers – the people who will make it
  • Marketing and communication experts – the people who will shape the story and share it.

The list also could include the trainers, the support staff, the finance team, the contractors or on-sellers. Every case is different, but cast your team well.

3) BE CLEAR ABOUT THE QUESTION – FOCUS

Collaboration clicks into gear when everyone on the team is addressing the same question. Questions change, of course, from;

What are we facing? and, What are the unmet needs?

…to, What could we achieve for our customers? and, Why would they want to buy that?

… and, What do we need to do or create to make this happen?

… and so on.

Keep the questions explicit and you have a better chance of finding clear and actionable answers.

4) COLLABORATE – ANSWER THE QUESTIONS

Create quality consensus by encouraging contribution from all members of the team. Encourage initiation from people with different perspectives; test the support for ideas and build tolerance for handing opposing views through dialogue. Hold high standards for the quality of your answers. In our view, good answers are:-

  • Accurate.  Are they well defined? Free from ambiguity or soft thinking?
  • Authentic.  Are they a true expression of the team’s collective intelligence, free from politics, approval-seeking or complacency?
  • Accountable.  Do they take into consideration a reasonable level of risk management? Have you considered the impact on people, finance and brand?

5) DEVELOP COLLABORATIVE CAPABILITY – KNOW WHAT WORKS AND PRACTICE

The team will perform better when they become comfortable with the uncertainty of genuine collaboration. This happens when everyone on the team knows the routine. Seasoned sporting teams, theatre companies, music groups, and business teams all perform better when there is agreement on a game plan, a set of routines and values that shape the way everyone plays, or contributes. It is possible to develop this for your team and indeed for your entire organisation. At a high level, it might be defined as a combination of culture and operating rhythm.

These five factors overlap.  They are not linear.  The role of the innovation leader is to facilitate the process such that each layer positively impacts on the rest.

TAKE ACTION

At COUP, we have a unique perspective and skillset that can help teams and organisations create and grow their power and capability to innovate. It is based on applying the ideas in the article, tailored to fit the scale of your business and the industry and the markets in which your operate. From discovery and diagnosis, to designing the program, to developing the internal leadership capability, to delivery and evaluation, we can demystify the process and help you dial up the innovation and agility in your business.

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