Innovation Culture can be many things, what it is not is having an innovation department or outsourcing development to external teams of entrepreneurs, or on-boarding entrepreneurial projects.
While all of these solutions undoubtedly provide short-term returns they do not represent a Culture of innovation because simply put, company culture is how everyone behaves and there is nothing innovative about getting other people to innovate for you.
Good Ideas Have No Fixed Address
In other words, the best ideas for taking a company forward, improving product, sales and marketing, processes or relationship will not NECESSARILY come from that innovation department. Some might, but the potential is not limited. The people delivering your product know more about how it is received, perceived and used than the team you’ve got locked up in head office. The team selling your product knows more about how it impacts lives than your board of directors and the people involved in your processes know more about their pro’s and cons than the external consultant who dreamed them up
Knowing everything there is to know about something is not always the best way to figure out how to improve it. Experts can get so tangled up in fine details and inter-relations that they cannot see things that are glaringly obvious on a macro level to less expert eyes. The science of business and things is wonderful, but you are also dealing with humans and understanding them can often provide better insight when PAIRED with expert knowledge.
Departments, outsource service providers and bought-in projects all have one thing in common: the weight of expectation and the terms and conditions under which they operate. They know that is they mess with either of these things they are gone. So, they don’t dare break any rules, mix it up or really challenge the status quo. In other words, most of what they come up with will be bland rehashes of what you already have.
In short, the people who experience the problems, the shortfalls and the potentials are NOT the people tasked with acting on them. That’s a big problem
A change in culture. In other words, actually changing how you DO things. The first thing that will probably need to change will be the current management style. Even today, many management cultures remain controlling. With control, all you get is what you say you want. For real, ongoing, spontaneous and heartfelt innovation to take place you need a management approach of SUPPORT.
- Bring everyone involved in the product/process/service together
- Ask your customers how you can help them better
- Listen to everyone’s feedback without immediate judgement
- Stop trying to control the conversation around innovation
- Empower everyone to share their ideas
- Act on good ideas and give credit for them
- Create time where diverse teams come together
- Encourage dialogue across your value chain
Trust that the people you have around you care as much about the business as you do and LISTEN to their feedback. You’ll be pleasantly surprised if you do.