HOW TO BUILD AN INNOVATION CULTURE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?
The product architect and entrepreneur should strive to be ahead of time. Therefore, you need a talented “innovative team” – the right synthesis of strategists, technologists, and communicators – to lead these fundamental changes, introduce a new culture and inspire other employees. For this, you need a corporate culture where “innovation” will be built into the fabric of your entity’s nature. Let’s start with the team: how to build one and what roles should each of its participants fulfill? To become innovative, your company needs a special culture, a new way of thinking at all levels and disciplines. However, to achieve this, you will need to go through a difficult phase of transformation, which will have a significant impact on your company.
The goals and specific roles of the “innovation team” depend on the type, size, and industry of the company. Usually, organizations need a driving force from the inside out. A reliable team that will promote innovative thinking presents the right technologies, and best practices can be such a force. Make sure that the innovation program matches the current business and takes control of all the risks of failure. Depending on the goals of the company, the responsibilities of the “innovation team” will be different. These may include:
- Strategy Development, Determination of Success
Strategy and plan are very important. An “innovation team” should determine what innovation means in the context of your company and how to achieve it. They should indicate the main stages of development and determine the metrics and criteria for success within the framework of the transformation of the organization. The company should analyze the market and competitors, trends, and forecasts, clearly articulate and convey the vision and strategy.
- Providing an Innovative Structure
The innovation team must identify and provide the right technology to promote innovation and accelerate the adoption of an innovation culture. For example, a team should select and offer tools for brainstorming, applications for disseminating information, and so on. PPM Express is one of those rare modern toolkits that have thought about idea and innovation management functionality. Companies already use the PPM Express platform to capture new ideas, improvements, change requests, and proposals for new products to drive growth and innovation on all levels (among other things that cultivate innovative approaches, like boosted transparency, awareness, and employee engagement.) Besides, it provides a structured approach for idea selection, alignment with strategic goals, and prioritization.
Without a system for managing ideas and project requests, you are inevitably bound to face obstacles in “hearing the voices of your employees.” Your most asset is people. So, you should use all the valuable ideas they have by enabling them to share them effectively. New ideas and improvements can give you more than just a competitive edge. It can fix the unfixable block on your road to innovative culture and environment – low engagement. PPM Express makes it simple for everyone in the organization to participate in innovation, be creative, and receive recognition. Let your team submit their ideas, project requests, change requests or suggestions for improvements within business challenges.
- Innovation by Example
Innovation is a very interesting topic. However, if you do not provide specific examples of its application (ideally, success stories) to your teams, the strength of their enthusiasm will quickly exhaust. An innovative team should include creative people, developers and technologists. They should connect the theoretical and abstract aspects of innovation with the commercial context of your company, demonstrate how innovations can bring concrete business results in a short time. This is the best way to inspire others and increase global interest in a new innovative initiative. That’s why PPM Express introduced a concept of Strategic Priorities in its idea management functionality. As a result, we have a system where all the innovation effort is focused on particular goals and all ideas are evaluated and selected according to how they correspond with corporate strategy.
- Communication, inspiration, distribution
Communication in this context is very important: no matter how innovative your team is, and your strategy is effective, nothing will work without communications. This is the only way to prove that innovation brings value to the company, employees, customers, and probably society.
- Measurement, evaluation, flexibility
An innovative team must constantly measure and evaluate progress at every step of the transformational program. In the event of gaps or surprises, she must quickly review assumptions, models, and processes and make the right decisions flexibly.
- Ability to cope with noise, avoid failures
Innovation can make noise and harm organizations. An innovation team must prevent a situation where standard KPIs are at risk due to an aggressive, overly ambitious innovation program or unexpected reaction to “calls for innovation.” The team must deal with noise, set priorities wisely and communicate effectively and gently.
Team composition is highly dependent on industry and corporation size. In any case, the innovation team must be multidisciplinary. Typically, a team includes:
- Strategists. They must have strategic thinking to plan for innovative transformation. You need strategists with a deep understanding of the industry, competitors, market dynamics and the situation in your company.
- Product experts. They should begin to identify opportunities and priority areas for the innovation program, identify the competition and global change, identify gaps and opportunities, establish communication with the commercial aspects of your business, think like users and be the voice of your client.
- Technologists. Experts combining in-depth technical knowledge, best practices, and understanding of product architecture, development cycle and innovative methodologies. They should stimulate initiatives such as a shift to agile product development methodologies with a focus on research and data-driven decision making. These can be leading architects or developers with extensive experience in agile product development or prototyping.
- Program Managers. They must manage programs and projects and lead several initiatives to accelerate innovation transformation.
- Experts in the field of intellectual property. Even if intellectual property is not one of your goals, at any time, there may be wonderful opportunities that should not be missed. When teams come together and experiment with ideas, they can find new patentable solutions with high potential. To do this, we need experts who will determine patentability and potential competitive advantages.
- Innovators: The ultimate goal of this program is to turn a typical employee into a real innovator. The best way to achieve this is to form a team of innovators who will set an example within the framework of mentality, behavior, best practices, and results. Your innovation team needs technologists who can quickly implement and develop prototypes and concept checks, measure success and capture results. You need creative people who want to provide new solutions to complex problems, risky and ambitious professionals who will look at tasks from a technical and commercial point of view.
- Proponents of innovation. You need a smart and effective communication plan to present an innovative program, concrete actions, and success stories. Inspired and effective communicators should do this – the people responsible for disseminating the innovative message who will talk about progress, achievements and success stories.
- Innovation process experts. These are experts in the field of innovative structures, methodologies, and tools. They will train your teams in a flexible product development methodology, rapid prototyping, design thinking, and related practices.
- “Outside look” innovators. The scheme should be flexible to allow employees who are not members of the “innovation team” to join for a certain period. This maximizes the exchange of information and experience and will ensure a smoother transition to an innovative model. This is a great way to minimize the risk of isolating an “innovation team” from other employees.
Innovative Corporate Culture
An innovative organizational culture is a working atmosphere that creates and maintains the conditions for unlocking the creative potential of a company. Such a culture motivates employees and gives them confidence that their efforts to create new products or services will be supported and encouraged. The basis for building an innovative culture is the shared (shared) values of management and employees.
Personal values are manifested in the daily activities of a person, exerting a profound influence on motives, knowledge, skills. The values that form the basis of the organization’s culture are either a reflection of the deep convictions of the company’s top executives, or a legacy of former leaders. When there is no coherence between the organization’s cultural values and the staff’s value system, the result is unsatisfactory. If the level of commitment of the company’s employees to their work is low, you should not dream of high quality of products and services. All this, of course, leads to a decrease in the financial performance of the organization.
The consistency of values has two main advantages. Firstly, thanks to it, corporate culture can attract and retain talented employees. This gives the organization significant business benefits, especially when talent is in short supply. Secondly, such unity contributes to the creation of a strong brand. Brand value and company value are two sides of the same coin. The strongest brands are those based on a strong corporate culture.
How can the involvement of staff in the life of the company and the charge on creativity affect overall business results? Those interested in their work, finding themselves in a favorable supportive environment, tend to work not “from 9 to 5”, but to realize their professional aspirations, taking on more responsibility, actively using new knowledge, experimenting, and learning on the go. Their energy, skillfully directed by the management in the right direction, can give a lot: the work will be done better and much faster. The main task of building an innovative culture is to determine and configure the following organizational aspects:
- Employee interest in their work.
- Supportive environment.
- Focus on the desired results.
The organization can be represented in the form of a tree, the fruits of which will be an integral result of the work of the entire company. Just like a tree, an organization uses resources to deliver a finished product (fruits) to the external environment. The more efficiently the resources are converted, the more the finished product will be. If you worked well, the crop was a success, and if something went wrong, there would be few or no fruits. To ensure that business results at the end of the reporting period do not come as a surprise, companies should:
- Develop their competencies,
- Set goals,
- Develop strategies,
- Approve plans,
- Develop incentive programs
- Streamline and direct the activities of their employees.
Both business results and strategies for their achievement are often in sight. However, what lies at their core – collective values and basic ideas, which are the central elements of organizational culture – is usually hidden from the attention of the leader. Just as the state of the root system of a tree largely determines its vitality and ability to bear fruit, so the state of organizational culture determines the quantity and quality of business results.
Very often, companies either don’t manage the culture at all or do it according to the residual principle “when problems start or a good occasion appears.” Achieving innovative results, in this case, becomes a costly and ineffective business, since a lot of money, effort and time is spent on unproductive steps. An innovative culture, which should increase the involvement of personnel in the decision-making process, is based on the belief of each employee, including top management, and ordinary employees, that “we are all in the same boat.” If we want our employees to “root for work” and come to us with their ideas, let’s put ourselves in their place: what would we want from our boss in this case? For an employee to come “to the head” and bring an idea, he must be absolutely sure that someone is listening to him and consider his idea. And in any case, they will certainly appreciate the initiative itself.
Creating a Single “Innovative Squad”
One of the main risks of creating a separate “innovation team” is the risk of its isolation from other employees. Innovative teams usually take advantage of the latest technologies and do not work with current difficulties. The rest see the team as a separate organization, “playing in the sandbox,” while the rest are working with real business problems. Therefore, effective communication and constant exchange of information are very important.
Another risk is to interfere with everyday business: the whole system can easily stop functioning if employees lose focus. Another scenario: the continuous generation of ideas can create noise and prevent the team from fulfilling orders. The product development process may also be affected. In any case, the “innovation team” must ensure the right balance between innovation and everyday business, effectively identifying real business opportunities and establishing the right focus.
Innovative Culture Paradox
The innovative cultures are misunderstood. The easy-to-like behaviors that get so much attention are only one side of the coin. They must be counterbalanced by some tougher and frankly less fun behaviors. A tolerance for failure requires an intolerance for incompetence. A willingness to experiment requires rigorous discipline. However, businesses must recognize that there are no shortcuts in building an innovative culture.
If you think that by breaking the organization into smaller units or creating an autonomous “loosely organized research team,” you can emulate an innovative start-up culture, think again. This approach rarely works. It confuses scale with culture. Simply breaking a big bureaucratic organization into smaller units does not magically endow them with an entrepreneurial spirit. Without strong management efforts to shape values, norms, and behaviors, these offspring units tend to inherit the culture of the parent organization that spawned them.
This does not mean that autonomous units or teams can’t be used to experiment with a culture or to incubate a new one. They can. But the challenge of building innovative cultures inside these units should not be underestimated. Luckily for us, all modern technologies, such as PPM Express, will help to effectively manage all this balancing and “macro-to-micro” management, despite a large number of participants in the process, ideas, the complexity of the evaluation process, etc.