Is Your Organisation Ready for Innovation?
Some people in leadership roles talk about introducing innovation into their organisations as if it’s some kind of shiny new electronic gadget.
"An innovation culture will give us a brighter future", they say. "We’ll start it up next week."
Sadly, that kind of thinking is wishful and uninformed.
In our many years of helping organisations realise the benefits of innovation, we’ve never seen anyone succeed by simply plugging it in and turning it on.
Genuine, sustainable innovation is always the result of a carefully considered process.
It may be wrong to take innovation readiness for granted
For many organisations, the first step in the process is to find the answer to one fundamental question.
The question is, "Are we really ready for innovation?"
That’s right. In some organisations, there may be doubt about whether their existing culture has the attributes necessary for innovation to succeed.
When we work with such clients, we begin with a systematic assessment process that enables us to
- determine whether current management practices are compatible with innovation
- quantify what people across the organisation think about productivity and creativity
- gather hard data that feeds into an action plan for building a culture of innovation
Some management practices support innovation
One part of our process is to assess how well the organisation rates for management practices that encourage and foster innovative behaviour.
- Organisational encouragement: Here, we are looking for attributes such as the fair and constructive judgment of ideas, reward and recognition for creative work, mechanisms for developing new ideas, an active flow of ideas, and a shared vision.
- Supervisory encouragement: We want to know whether supervisors at any level are good work models, set appropriate goals, support and show confidence in their staff and value individual contributions.
- Work group support: We investigate what happens within work groups. We want to see diverse skills and people who communicate well with each other, are open to new ideas, constructively challenge each other’s work, trust and help each other, and feel committed to their work.
- Sufficient resources: Because innovation requires resources, we check whether people have access to appropriate funds, materials, facilities and information.
- Challenging work: We look for evidence that people think their work is important and challenges them in a positive way.
- Freedom: We evaluate the extent to which people have a sense of being in control of their work.
Two management practices inhibit innovation
We assess these because their presence will undermine, and possibly destroy, any attempts to introduce an innovation culture.
- Leadership impediments: Examples are internal political problems, harsh criticism of new ideas, destructive internal competition, risk avoidance and an overemphasis on the status quo.
- Unrealistic workload pressures: Examples are extreme time pressures, unrealistic expectations about productivity and distractions from creative work.
Then, there’s data on productivity and creativity
We also collect data that gives us an insights into certain aspects of efficiency, effectiveness and perceptions about creativity. As with everything our process examines, we can do this data collection across the whole organisation or within specific work groups.
The information our process delivers about management practices, productivity and creativity eliminates false assumptions about innovation readiness. It tells us what needs to change to allow the planning and implementation of a successful innovation strategy.
Yes, an innovation culture will give you a brighter future, but expecting to start it up next week may be unrealistic.