10 Action points to help create a culture of innovation

1. Before we say no to new ideas – ‘Consider’

You never know where the best ideas are going to come from, so you need to be open. When Kodak said ‘no’ to the digital camera invented in their very own labs by Steven Sasson in 1975, they said no to the idea that was to fuel the next revolution in technology. This ‘no’ eventually led the multi-billion dollar global business to file for bankruptcy in 2012.

Often new thinking comes from those you’d least expect, so it’s important to be open to the ideas of all your people and create a culture where everybody feels free to share their ideas: a culture where new ideas for improvement can be continually generated by willing minds.


2. Celebrate wins and losses – ‘Risk-taking’

While we celebrate our successes it is important to create an environment where it is ok to fail or fail fast. By celebrating failure we create an environment where people can experiment and be creative. It is through trialling, testing and re-learning that we learn our greatest lessons. It is better to try, test, fail, improve and continually reiterate, than to take years to build a so-called perfect solution, to then only find out it is not.

3. Understand the areas of innovation to foster – ‘Targets’

It is important to understand which areas are to be focused on. Often innovation is mistaken for simply product related innovation. The recent resurgence of Microsoft has been attributed to their clear focus on key areas of innovation, the areas for them were:  a) Product, b) Business Model, and c) Process.

4. Seek opportunities for new and different perspectives – ‘New brooms’

Ideas from not just within your team or your colleagues but from functional areas of your business, your customers, suppliers, key influencers in your industry, interns, crowd-sourcing and external board members. All these are avenues to bring in fresh and different perspectives on how to do things better.

5. Empower champions to overcome roadblocks – ‘Empowerment’

Most corporate environments will have several roadblocks that prohibit new and innovative thinking due to silos, process and politics. It is important to appoint champions empowered to remove these roadblocks that slow down and inhibit important initiatives related to innovation.

6. Give employees the tools to make their case – ‘Tools’

The most innovative companies in the world have the best-managed process for R&D. Empower your people with the right tools so when they come up with an idea they are able to pitch these ideas quickly and successfully. For example if ROI is a key measurement, provide the training templates and tools to help them succeed at finding areas for improvement.

7. Redefine Metrics, Measurement and Incentives – ‘Metrics’

If innovation is important to your business it is important that metrics and measurement reflect that. Incentives must be in place to encourage the creation of ideas and initiatives that create new products and process. Are the remuneration systems and bonus structures conducive towards cross-functional collaboration between people and team? Review the metrics and measurement in place in your organisation to ensure they’re conducive to a culture of innovation.

8. Create a safe place for experimentation – ‘Experimentation’

People will not innovate when they fear losing their jobs if they fail. People must feel safe to come up with ideas and to test ideas. Politics and a culture of finger pointing are often major reasons why people don’t think outside the box.

9. Be curious, continuously – ‘Curiosity’

A culture of curiosity is healthy for every organisation. Questioning how we do things, anything for that matter, so we don’t get stuck in old habits or settle for less is crucial to progress.

10. Ask yourself where little improvements are possible – ‘Tune-up”

Little improvements can make huge differences to a bottom line. Often the compounding effect of just marginal improvements in multiple areas can transform the status quo completely. Be open and constantly look for areas of improvement in every aspect of your business, in every process, in every product or service, even in your business model.

About the author:

Dinesh De SilvaDinesh De Silva is the CEO of Netstripes. A strategist & technologist at heart, Dinesh has been providing strategic direction and visionary leadership to listed and privately held businesses in Australia and the Asia Pacific region for over 15 years. Dinesh has recognised expertise in the structuring and positioning of organisations and of structuring industries for growth in collaboration with government.

Dinesh is a regular speaker at business forums on innovation and digital engagement; two issues he is passionate about in helping business leaders reimagine their future to affect change.

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