Innovation Culture – What do you mean?

If you are here looking for the miracle solution that will create an innovation culture overnight, you are in the wrong place. This post is about the right questions that you should be asking yourself in the journey of finding the right innovation culture and your way to get there. If the approach suits you, go further with this reading. Also stay with us for the next three weeks as we will explore further the subject.

More and more companies are turning to innovation for survival or growth purposes, and it is a trendy focus for firms in most industries. Statements like: “We want to be innovative”, “We want to make our new ideas profitable”, “We want a sustainable innovation culture” are frequent in management meetings, around coffee machines and on the internet. However, are these ground-breaking goals? Who would not want to have an innovation culture in its company that allows them to always be ahead of the competition? It is as if one day we would wake up saying we want to be happy. Like the aspiration for personal happiness, the appetite for innovation is the easy part. However, how to achieve it, is the hard part and there is not a one-fits-all receipt.

Consultants and specialise firms present you with the “last, perfect, most spectacular, etc.” tool or method that will get you the Grail of innovation. So which one to choose? How to know which is the right one? Here the answer is simple: IT DEPENDS! Because all tools and methods have the potential to be good and to be lacking at the same time. Therefore, the question is which will work best for YOU? But looking for tools at this stage is wasting energy to find solutions to an undefined vision. Hence your quest for innovation must go through 3 phases: Understanding, Definition, Implementation.

Understanding

To begin with, what is behind the words “Innovation Culture”? Individually, the meanings of these words can be vague or misunderstood. Often, people give them different meanings depending on the personal context or interpretation. For example, the most common mistake is that people consider innovation to be any novel idea. An idea—or invention—may exist as an abstract thought or concept, but is not an innovation until it has some effect or substance. So, to talk about real innovation, you should have in mind the following elements:

  • Is implementation feasible? Does current knowledge allow the necessary technology for its implementation?
  • Is there a market for it? Are there enough people/companies willing to pay for it?

So first, how your company defines innovation? Is there a shared understanding across departments and individuals?

In the case of the company culture, a common mistake is to underestimate the power of its force that can foster or break any initiative in the company. Generally, we define the company culture as the invisible force that shapes behaviours, beliefs and norms. Therefore, it is essential to understand this complementary factor that underlies the defined rules and processes. With this in mind, look for the characteristics and foundations of your current culture to better identify the gaps with the desired one.

Definition

Now that you have a clear view of your current situation, and before thinking of how, the next step is to define what an “innovation culture” you want for your company. As for happiness that comes in myriad shapes and colours, innovation can take a multitude of forms. Above all, your journey should always have in focus your company’s goals. Otherwise you risk to introduce a culture in conflict with the company’s strategy and values. Ask yourself questions like: “Why do we want innovation for?”, “How people should treat new ideas?”, “How management should behave?”.

Implementation

You have an overview of where your company is today, and you defined where you want to take it. It is now time to get the vision into the field. If you are looking to the steps you have done up to now, you can easily conclude that you are looking to do a culture change. It is a specific change with a focus towards an innovation, but it is still a change of this invisible force that drives the company. Thus, the ultimate question will be: “how to modify the culture within your company?”

 

Starting next week and for three weeks in a row, our blog will host a special guest: Mr. Yves Karcher, the former VP of Engineer, Consumer Computing Platforms at Logitech. He will share with you how he implemented an innovation culture that transformed the entire company from a pure technology firm to a design company.