thoughts on innovation

A collection of my thoughts on digital innovation

Innovation Culture In Corporates

This blog was originally published in Jan. 2016

Building a culture of innovation is one of the hardest things for any Organization – especially one with legacy systems, structures and work cultures. Many organizations may even stop trying and instead invest their time and effort in building an autonomous entity or brand new unit, loaded with ‘fresh blood’ with the hope that this will be the “Google-type” division of the company. But while the effort needed in transforming the culture of an Organization may be enormous, the long-term benefits cannot be over-emphasized. Hence the need to keep working towards this goal.

An innovation culture is characterized by an atmosphere in which everyone is clear about the importance of their contribution to innovation and are motivated enough to actually contribute and participate despite the imminent possibility of failure.

Activities geared towards innovation culture will usually run as programs, campaigns or projects. So if you are thinking of running an innovation program that generates optimum engagement among employees, here are a few tips that can help to kick-start the journey towards the type of culture that can lead to transformation. Of course, the effort needed can hardly be broken down into bullet points, but these few tips may be worth thinking about for managers that are serious about culture.

  • Competitive Collaboration: Its common knowledge that employees, busy at their normal day-to-day activities are not obliged to be engaged in any innovation activity or your innovation program. The argument is always that there are far “more important” things to do. Hence, there is a need for a different style of engagement. Competitive collaboration or a champions-league-style engagement can fuel creativity and teamwork. The passion that comes from employees working together in teams in an innovation/ideation program or campaign is better enhanced when there is a goal that everyone is working competitively towards.

  • Champion Support (top-down and local): While it is quite obvious that innovation cultures thrive better where there is adequate support from the leadership, it is important to note that this should be a two-pronged approach. First is the top-down support from senior management and second is the context-based support from a local champion. The local champion support may be in the form of line-managers, team leaders etc. The top-down support shows that the leadership cares about and values people’s contribution. The local champion support shows that the efforts/programs/strategy is “local” enough to understand the context of interaction of the employees working in different units.

  • Standardising (with tools): Innovation by its very nature cannot be subjected to a set of rigid rules. However, contrary to the popular belief that innovation should be haphazard and fluffy, providing and standardising innovation activities with relevant tools, templates and framework can help to foster the needed engagement for a great culture. Tools range in usage from ideation tools to refinement, evaluation and collaboration tools. The simplicity that this brings allows for "user-friendly" innovation programs which is of course an essential ingredient for engagement and a culture of innovation.

In subsequent posts we will explore how tools can be further used to enhance the innovation activities and which ones are relevant to different contexts.


Gbemi Akande