Creating a Culture of Innovation: Innovate, Survive, Thrive
Innovation is a mindset. To foster a truly creative workplace you need a culture that embraces innovation. The problem is that people, in general, aren’t terribly good at embracing change. But without creativity, innovation, and continuous reassessment, organizations may soon find themselves yesterday’s big news. Building a culture that values creativity, flexible thinking, and experimentation can help encourage innovation until it becomes a central tenant of an organization.
What is Innovation?
Innovation is the result of creativity. It can be applied to the product, the process, or the business model itself. Innovative products, technological advances, and creative procedures are highly recognizable forms of innovation, but it’s vital to encourage innovation at all levels. A creative solution to the coffee break problem or a major overhaul to the organization’s communication channels are both innovative strategies that will help improve staff morale and engagement, and help the organization perform at its peak level. In healthcare, physicians and organizations see most innovation in the development of care and treatment options. Medical procedures are constantly challenged and improved as our understanding and control of biological processes is honed. That’s a vital part of the puzzle that helps create quality care facilities. The bigger challenge in healthcare may be bringing that same innovative culture into the daily processes of the organization.
An Innovative Culture Encourages Ongoing Disruption
Innovation doesn’t just happen, it requires work to create the right environment for innovation to flourish. In a paper commissioned by the National Center on Education and the Economy, researchers examined the factors that contribute to creativity and innovation in the workplace. The findings identify 3 main factors contributing to creativity and innovation; knowledge, creative thinking, and motivation. When these 3 factors converge, you have a recipe for positive change in your organization.
How Do You Create an Innovative Culture?
- Draw on Your Team– Two of the factors mentioned, knowledge and creative thinking, rely on utilizing a range of skills and expertise to solve a problem. Your team must have the specific, technical knowledge to come up with viable solutions, but it also helps to have a wide range of knowledge to choose from. This allows you to make connections and think outside the box. An innovative team will have a diverse range of personalities and skill sets to draw upon.
- Encourage Disruption– Organizational change takes work, but it’s worth it to bring your company forward and to the top of the industry. If you aren’t the one innovating, someone else will beat you to it. That’s where disruption comes in. Complacency and the status-quo are dangerous words these days. Disruptive thinking means that you are challenging your assumptions about your industry, your product, your services. When you disrupt yourself, you can push yourself to the next level and constantly ahead of the pack.
- Have Courage– Stepping outside of your comfort zone is never easy. Have the courage to let go of existing processes and the current paradigm. These processes have become comfortable and the familiarity of a routine can lull you into inaction. To break away, identify your reasons for creating change and use that to bolster your courage. Remember, the anticipation of change is often the hardest part. Once you get started you may find you don’t know why you were holding back for so long.
- Get Trained and Coached– Finding the right motivation is an important step in breaking away from the comfort of routine. Internal motivators are the best drivers, but sometimes we need a little extra push. An external coach can help you move past those obstacles and expand your thinking with objective assessments, tools, and strategies for process improvement. The right partner can also become a sounding board for new ideas, helping to bring a fresh perspective into your innovation journey. Achieving an innovative mindset means relearning how we approach problems, and that is a teachable skill.
- Have Empathy with the Customer – Sometimes your best innovations can come from a shift in perspective. Understanding your customer’s needs, motivation, and thought process puts you in a better position to design a solution that will truly reach them. We call this design empathy. There are several strategies that can help you empathize with your customer. This could include focus groups, surveys, personal discussions, market research and more. The most important aspect is to remember that we are designing solutions with people, for people. Don’t get so caught up in the process that you forget to identify with the human aspect of your business.
- Let Go of Your Assumptions– Your assumptions are based on the organization as it exists today. They have been built on a solid foundation and will continue to reinforce that foundation. In an innovative culture we need to be breaking through these foundations and rebuilding assumptions at every turn. Challenge your assumptions as much as possible to help bring a fresh perspective to the table.
- Don’t be afraid of Obstacles– Its often when we have strict limitations to overcome that we find ourselves with the most creative solutions. Limitations such as budget constraints, personnel shortages, or technological holes should be seen as opportunities to get really creative. Chances are, you’ll end up with a better and smarter solution than the big budget option.
- Think Outside the Industry– Having a fresh perspective can really help shake up an organization. When you are intrenched in your organization you can develop tunnel vision that narrows your focus and makes it harder to find creative external ideas. Often, a brilliant innovation can come from applying tactics or solutions taken out of context. Just look at BMW’s iDrive The luxury car company was looking for a solution to help drivers use the complicated navigation system without taking their eyes from the road. The solution they devised was modeled after gaming controllers. It is this type of lateral thinking that creates positive disruption in a company. Many organizations are turning to outside innovation firms for this unique perspective on their industry.
- Rethink ‘Failure’– The negative concept of failure can get in the way of innovation, but the best innovators know how to take a ‘failure’ and turn it on its head. This is called ‘pivoting.’ When a solution doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a dead end, this is an opportunity for improvement. The lessons learned in getting to this ‘failure’ are valuable lessons and will contribute to a better final solution. Sometimes it’s as simple as rethinking the application of a product. At other times it may mean scrapping an idea entirely. That’s ok. You’re going to have to break a few eggs before you get the perfect omelet. It more important in the overall culture to celebrate the innovative process, otherwise perceived failures can intimidate the team into playing it safe, and that’s the real failure.
Innovation in the workplace means challenging yourself and your team every day. A culture of innovation helps shape the vision of an organization so that you can break away from the pack. It’s about setting a new target in your industry. At CTI we can work with your team to develop personalized strategies for promoting an innovative culture.