Nov 26, 2015
There is great interest today by organizations in developing innovation cultures. And why not? Creating a mechanism that perpetually harnesses the internal brilliance of your employees is a powerful thing. Not only is this impactful for employee engagement but, done right, it will continuously delight your customers who will in turn delight your bottom line.
Creating an innovation culture is viewed by most as a daunting undertaking. While characterized by complexities requiring detailed planning and skillful execution, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some simple techniques that can get you started.
Step One: Have a Compelling Vision
Having a compelling vision starts with being crystal clear on what your future destination is, including the path to achieve it. While the future destination should be aspirational and encompass emotional attachment, it must be accompanied by step by step plans outlining the direction in detail. Your compelling vision should be reflective of your brand and resonate equally with your customers and employees.
Step Two: Communicating the Vision
Once the vision is created and detailed, a robust communication plan needs to be developed and delivered to begin cascading the vision throughout the organization. This goes far beyond sending a series of e-mails through various levels of your company. A successful communication plan includes identification of the types of stakeholders as well as consideration for the various mediums, frequency, timing as well as messaging. The heart of the communication should address the emotions that customers and employees will experience on the journey to the future destination. Unaddressed emotions, good or bad, can stall the best planned initiative. Communicating the vision is one of the first steps in creating a shared goal.
Step Three: Always Keep the Customer at the Forefront
Like any journey, as your plan for creating an innovation culture unfolds you will face opportunities requiring pivots. When faced with these junctures, be sure to always keep the customer in mind when determining the best route. It is easy at times to become distracted by shiny objects along the way. If you truly understand your customers and use them as the talisman for decision making, you should remain centered on the correct path.
Step Four: You Just Have to Ask
Part of creating an innovation culture involves tapping into the hearts and minds of your employees. And who better to understand how to delight your customers then those who work most closely with them. And the best part, all you have to do is ask the right question to be able to mine this greenfield of opportunity. Time and time again I am amazed at how few organizations have learned and are utilizing the powerful technique of asking questions. If you haven’t yet tried this, here’s one to get you started. Ask a front line employee “If you had a magic wand and could change one thing to make our customers’ lives better, what would you do?”. Ask it often enough and you’ll begin to see where the pattern of innovation opportunities exist.
Step Five: Celebrate Successes
Creating an innovation culture takes time. Along the way you need to mark the milestones with celebrations. This will help refuel your employees and reinforce the new behaviours you are trying to operationalize into your daily routines. When creating an innovation culture you will need to celebrate near successes as well as the slam dunks. Positively calling out selective “almost” wins will help reinforce “trial” behaviour and increase tolerance for risk by reducing fear of failure. All essential characteristics of an innovation culture.
Creating an innovation culture is one that engages your employees to continuously delight your customers. While not a simple undertaking, the destination is worth the journey and these five steps will help you get started.