businessman with question marks around him
How often do you hear, “Please send all of your new ideas to me via email” or “please come to ABC meeting to share your innovative ideas?” I am going to assume if you say “all the time”, that you work for a think tank or a start-up of sorts. But, for the majority of folks, this is very unlikely. Rather, you hear things like, “we don’t have time to think about innovation” or “we have plenty of ideas, but what’s the point if management always says there is no budget to pursue them?”
Okay, so we could talk about various barriers that companies tend to hide behind as excuses to why they can’t ideate or why there isn’t a culture to drive improved innovation. BUT, I’d rather talk about ways to create a… wait for it… innovation culture! This will be a precursor to my next blog where I’ll give my perspective on what an innovation maturity model looks like and why it is a bit more unique than other “mainstream” models.
So, let’s talk culture. Many larger firms are looking at ways to create a culture rich with ideas and some are doing well at it, some even creating environments similar to what you might find at a start-up or think tank. Well, for the folks struggling to make sense of “how”, here are a few pointers:
  • Don’t just think innovation; think competitive advantage – Ever heard of survival of the fittest? With changing customer demands, more product and service choices, etc. there is a higher bar for what is valuable and without innovation you will likely lack competitive advantage and see declining market share over time.
  • You can’t learn how to innovate overnight – Learn from others, and learn how to be better. If you struggle with how to ideate and create a culture of innovation, look to the behaviors of others to see if that sparks an IDEA. Remember, your company is different, so don’t do what others do, but rather see if you can learn and adapt, then develop something which aligns with your company’s environment.
  • Innovation management requires a comprehensive approach – It requires a strategy, technology/tools, policies/processes and don’t forget about the people! Create a culture that enables your organization to define, create and deliver… it is not about having one smart person with one great idea, but rather about having a collaborative team and a portfolio of game-changing ideas… that will output the most thoughtful and innovative ideas.
  • Did I mention having an Innovation framework? – Okay, so this seems basic, but having governance and a framework will ensure activities are filtered, resourced and funded accurately and appropriately. Whether it is reducing risk, managing resources, or understanding costs and forecasted returns, this framework will act as the foundation of your innovation culture and create a guiding light for consistency.
Now for the fun part – how do you really know if you are doing it well? As an example, many companies, which have a good level of transparency in their organizational structure and an expensive software solution, may still struggle with innovation as these items are merely enablers to success, and a foundation around generating ideas and developing them into something more valuable may still be missing. OR, you are generating lots of ideas, but since you don’t track financial performance from ideation through sun-setting you aren’t able to understand if your great ideas are generating a return. You can determine what you might do to enhance your innovation management practices through the use of a maturity model to track where you are and even where other comparators may be as well.

Stay tuned and come back to check out my view of an innovation maturity model, which will help, and I promise it won’t use words like “optimized” or “sustainable”!