- Once started, an innovation strategy needs to maintain momentum to affect real change.
- Often, what helps make an innovation strategy self-perpetuating is healthy for your organization as a whole.
- Clear communication, lowered barriers, room to breathe, and an open mindset will be key to an ongoing strategy.
Once an innovative strategy is launched, it needs to maintain momentum. Ensuring a company is always innovative will involve making changes to its culture and approach, yet the dividends go well beyond good ideas. Here’s how to build a corporate culture that’s always creative.
Give Innovation Room to Breathe
People can’t be creative or even look at the big picture if they’re overwhelmed. Making it part of company culture to step back, take a breath, and consider different solutions is good for innovation and well-being.
This can take a number of forms, from meetings built into planning for innovation to a rolling process encouraging new thoughts. No matter what, start with giving people room to come up with ideas.
Encourage Clear Communication
Communication is the lifeblood of an organization. The right hand needs to know what the left hand is doing. Clear communication, however, isn’t always easy, especially across cultural, social, and technical boundaries.
Innovation programs are a great place to establish how to better communicate across your organization. Choose metrics you can communicate easily. Back them up with visual data as your strategy progresses. Provide explanations of why you chose those metrics and why you’re tracking them.
Demonstrate a broad reach as well. Run a campaign that sends emails to every internal address, that puts up posters with a central digital site to look at and give any questions clear answers promptly. By modeling good communication, you get more of it.
Create A Rewards System for Finding and Solving Problems
A problem can’t be fixed until it’s identified. Sometimes, it’s not clear there’s a problem in the first place. Radio Shack is a classic example. As cell phones became popular, the company shifted to a retail model selling them, their accessories, and plans. It never struck anyone in the company’s structure that cell networks might want to cut out the middleman with their own innovative organizations. Well, that’s precisely what happened.
Create a rewards structure for people who find and solve issues. These don’t have to be staggering organizational issues, but as people spot and help fix them, they get better at it, and they’re more likely to speak up.
Create A Culture of Trust
Presenting an idea requires personal risk, and it depends on somebody’s tolerance for rejection. People with a low tolerance or who simply aren’t used to speaking up may struggle with putting their ideas out there. Over time, this can push a strategy out of whack as only the most confident, or in some cases the loudest people, get their ideas considered.
Developing a culture of trust, where people know if they have an idea, it’ll be taken seriously, takes work. It involves more than just your innovative strategy. As people know they’re taken seriously, they’ll speak up and start dialogues about ideas and more.
Some ideas don’t work. They might seem appealing but lack detail. They could be great pieces of design but fail to meet client needs. They could be unworkable for many reasons.
The question is how it will be seen. There should be a process in place to learn from every idea as it goes through the innovation process, even if it doesn’t end with a finished product. What did you learn? Why didn’t it work? Were certain aspects effective? What lessons were learned that can be used going forward?
Embrace Change from Top-Down, Bottom-Up, and Side to Side
Innovation can come from multiple directions. Examples include the top down, when the c-suite has an idea that trickles down; the bottom up, when team members rally around an idea and push it to executives, and side to side, where two departments cross-pollinate ideas.
Innovation needs to come from all directions. What makes or breaks an idea is how early everyone with an internal stake is consulted. If a problem is found early at the conceptual stage, it’s easier to think around it than to build around it.
However, some forms of communication are easier than others. Even a healthy organization where leadership is carefully listening to teams can still form silos because there’s little reason for example, for the finance department to talk to the technical staff outside of invoices and paperwork.
As part of your innovative strategy, look for and break down silos whenever possible. Even if it’s as simple as shared lunches between departments, getting people talking is a good way to help them become innovative.
Listen To Your Customers
Often, your clients can tell you if you’re on the right track for an innovative strategy. Most businesses gather and analyze client feedback in some way. Incorporating it into your innovative strategy is particularly useful because client needs are always changing.
Make sure everyone who “touches” a client, from the sales department to the people processing an invoice, are communicating about what clients are saying. Is there a trend? Do they keep getting the same questions? Has a new type of client started popping up? Are they mentioning certain pain points?
Have a process to incorporate this into your innovative strategy. It’ll help your clients and open the door to new ideas.
Once an innovative strategy is built and launched, it will need to be refined to keep going. Having processes in place to streamline it and update it will not only ensure your organization is always innovative but will help it stay healthy and keep everyone on the same page. To learn how IdeaScale can help you maintain an innovative strategy in the long term, request a demo!