We asked our customers what their number one priority was for the coming year and the leading priority was: culture. We were a bit surprised by this answer. We thought that maybe our customers would be focused on generating new ideas, implementing new ideas, understanding the value of new ideas, but in the end it came down to the environment those ideas lived in – an organization’s culture.
The more we thought about it, the less surprising it seemed. Culture is the starting point for the success of all innovation programs and it is also a project that is never complete. One of the things about working at startup company like IdeaScale is that it’s almost an entirely different company every year. It’s the same for innovation culture – the problems you solved last year are different than the problems that you need to solve this year. Maybe last year you focused on developing innovation leadership skills within your workforce, but this year you need to focus on nurturing diversity and developing rules for innovation governance. But culture is multifaceted and a quality innovation culture influences a number of different things. Here are just a few things it might impact:
Employee Engagement. If employees believe that their voices will be heard, that their ideas play into the larger mission of the company, you’ll see higher levels of participation as well as employee engagement. Companies that want to impact engagement scores should work on building innovation culture.
Idea Quality. Companies with a positive innovation culture (one that allows for failure and celebrates success – among other things) will allow for more interesting and more diverse ideas. Organizations that want higher quality ideas, should work on building innovation culture.
Predictable Innovation. Innovation should be repeatable, but the only way to make innovation continuous is to have it top of mind every day. Many companies that aren’t considering innovation on a regular basis, lose their competitive edge. How will you keep innovation top of mind?
Idea Implementation. If you build a culture of innovation, more people will volunteer to implement ideas, steward, and become company intrapreneurs if you encourage a culture of participatory innovation. You have to both empower and encourage people to try new ideas – even to fail and live with that failure. If you do that, you’re going to force multiply your implementation capabilities.