Building an innovative culture is not easy, but there are aspects that organisations can focus on to inspire employees and create a culture of innovation.
CREATING CURIOUS LEADERS
An organisation’s ability to innovate and to entrench innovation and creativity into their culture is largely dependent on the organisation’s leadership. This is because the behaviour of the leaders in an organisation has a significant influence on the attitudes and actions of an organisation’s employees. It is important that innovation is driven by leaders who are passionate about innovation and who are willing to break their old ways of working.
Leaders need to ‘live’ innovation. Being a curious leader does not only involve talking about innovation – they need to be comfortable with using innovative tools, demonstrate they are open to new and unconventional ideas, work actively to break organisational barriers to innovation and mingle with creatives within the organisation.
Leaders should also devote time to sponsor innovation projects and to promote creative idea generation that informs the innovation culture. As leaders demonstrate innovative behaviours, people will feel more comfortable expressing similar behaviours, thus creating a ripple effect throughout the organisation.
Another building block of creating an innovative culture is creativity. Creativity enables innovation and is essential for organisations to come up with new ideas, services and products that allow organisations to remain competitive.
One of the best ways to encourage creativity is by hiring people with diverse skills and from various backgrounds. If teams are comprised of people with different knowledge bases and varied backgrounds, this mix in diversity will produce more creative results in teams by providing different perspectives that widen the creative pallet.
Creating a space in which people feel comfortable to express themselves also promotes a creative environment. People within the organisation and teams should have the courage to share their ideas and disagree with their superiors. If people do not feel safe to express themselves freely, they will repeat existing ideas, share what they believe their superiors want to hear or will keep their ideas to themselves – ultimately reducing the flow of new ideas within the organisation.
It is therefore extremely important that a climate of reciprocal trust is created in which risk taking is encouraged and new ideas are welcomed openly.
EFFECTIVELY MANAGING IDEAS
The first step is wanting to build an innovative culture where employees share new ideas, but it is important to have processes in place to manage these ideas. This is where idea management comes in – by aiming to ensure that ideas do not get lost and that the best ideas, with the most potential to add to the organisation’s bottom-line, are identified. There are several cloud-based and software idea management solutions available which allow employees to create, select, improve and evaluate ideas.
Aside from providing a platform for employees to share ideas, idea management also contributes towards enabling an inclusive culture and a safe space where employees feel free to share their ideas. By providing employees with the opportunity to submit their ideas and collaborate with their peers on these ideas, their morale and engagement will go up because they will feel heard. Most people are inherently far more creative than they imagine themselves to be – by providing them with the platform to express themselves, organisations may be surprised with the ideas their employees have to improve the organisation’s performance.
PUTTING THE THREE TOGETHER
By paying attention to these three elements, organisations can start fostering a culture of innovation. Companies cannot risk falling behind, as innovation is becoming key to sustained competitive advantage and growth. Leaders who are curious about innovation play a big part in driving innovation within their organisations and set the tone for building a safe environment where collaboration and idea sharing are encouraged.