A positive culture and a climate that enables innovation are necessary for individuals and organizations to thrive. In an innovation culture, leaders create an environment where out of the box, unorthodox, thinking is allowed and nurtured. In such an environment, new ideas come from anywhere in the organization and are not just the prerogative of top leadership.
In rapidly changing markets, an innovation culture is critical to help organizations maintain their competitive advantage. Innovative organizations are focused on the value created by employees. Organizations can develop this innovation culture by deliberately focusing on innovation through ongoing training and knowledge sharing, the integration of new technologies into the production process, and the addition of new leaders. Below are seven steps that leaders can take in developing a culture of innovation:
1. DEVELOP A TRAINING ENVIRONMENT THAT FACILITATES KNOWLEDGE SHARING
Train and keep training. An environment committed to ongoing training forces work teams and individuals to re-categorize information and move beyond habitual thinking patterns to truly novel alternatives and new ideas. Additionally, training facilitates knowledge sharing between individuals and between work teams.
2. IMMERSE WORK TEAMS INTO NEW ENVIRONMENTS
Immersing work teams into new environments supports creativity-building exercises and idea generation efforts outside the office. New environments are powerful in directly confronting workers’ implicit or explicit assumptions and forcing change that could positively impact individual performance and the organization.
3. DEMOCRATIZE INNOVATION AND EMBRACE NEW THINKING
By democratizing the methods of innovation and giving individuals and teams a louder voice in designing the future of the organization, managers and leaders help to foster a creative culture. A democratic innovation environment can help in overcoming traditional beliefs and jolt the organization out of familiar processes and procedures and into new thinking and idea generation.
4. INTEGRATE INNOVATION INTO ORGANIZATIONAL ACTIVITIES
Organizational leaders should integrate innovation and creativity into the fabric and behavior of the business, as an essential element of all organizational activities and not as a sideshow, without the required financial and managerial support. An import element of this process is the rewarding of innovation.
5. INTEGRATE NEW TECHNOLOGY
In the digital economy, it is critical that organizations systematically integrate new technology into the production process to maintain competitive advantage. Companies can leverage new technologies to drive innovation, keep pace and respond effectively and efficiently to the disruptions to their business. The right blend of new technologies will also help organizations in their drive to differentiate and deliver innovative products and services to their customers.
6. MANAGE CONFLICTS
While some conflict can produce positive outcomes, too much conflict can stifle creativity. To facilitate innovation, organizations must manage conflict to encourage the right level of debate and the exchange of different points of view, in a way that positively impacts the creative environment.
7. SYSTEMATICALLY ADD NEW LEADERS
Managers and leaders should resist the temptation to stay beyond their time. Instead, existing managers and leaders should systematically make way for new leaders who are able to bring new ideas and foster a culture of renewal, creativity, and innovation.
Innovation and inventiveness are required in everything that is done by a company, not just in marketing or in new product development. A key factor in boosting innovativeness is establishing the right organizational climate that nurtures the creative potential of employees and makes use of their knowledge of customers, competitors, and processes ~ Brian Leavy.
With constant changes in technology, disruptions in industry, and increased connectedness, there are multiple opportunities for innovation. Companies should build their innovation culture by paying attention to the best innovation practices of other companies, focusing on their values and philosophy, as they move to disrupt existing methods of product development, and deliver new and exciting products and services to the market.
Dr. Elaine Williams-Morgan is a Media & Management Consultant, Entrepreneur, and Business Educator. She blogs about Strategy & Innovation, Media Matters, and Entrepreneurship. Follow her posts at Focus on innovation with Dr. Elaine Williams-Morgan and at YourBusiness International Follow Elaine on Twitter @drElainea and on Facebook