The environment for innovation does really matter

Seven domains in work matThe Executive Innovation Work Mat methodology requires investigation and engagement across the seven domains or components that make up the work mat.  The aim of any work mat discussions undertaken with executives focuses upon bringing out the parts necessary for innovation to happen and that needs an integrated approach and lasting engagement from senior management.

In a series of articles I will be looking at each of the seven components within the work mat to raise questions to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations determined to build a lasting innovation competence and structure.

I’ve already offered some opening thoughts on Governance and Innovation, for me one of the basic building blocks for innovation lies in creating the right conditions for an Environment to innovate.

So what are those environmental conditions required for innovation?

Fostering the Environment for Innovation 1You can’t escape the fact having the right environment for innovation means different things to different people. It has general conditions, a ‘broad church’ approach that needs to be consciously set about to create the atmosphere that encourages and nurtures innovation.

The environment needs to be connected into the vision around innovation, it needs to offer many of the conditions that connect innovation in people’s minds, so it translate into “that fantastic place to work” or “I feel listened too, valued and making a contribution”. Innovation needs the right conditions and for your organization to foster a unique environment to prosper and grow.

The Environment offers the place, time and space to chase after those innovation challenges. It ‘creates’ conditions that inspire you, you want to be stretched both in mind and body to achieve something worthwhile, valued and making a contribution, turning ideas into winning propositions.

The environment needs to resonate so you can feel the buzz.

Increasingly organizations are recognizing the cubicles and boxes provided are killing creativity, reducing communications and creating the space for increased withdrawal. We are killing the meaning at work.

For innovation to work, we need to open up the minds, work hard at creating a physical space that is well designed, offering the opportunity for allowing engagement in. To achieve a certain association with a working environment makes people comfortable and wanting to be more creative, engaged and eager to take part.

We need to offer creative spaces, we need to let in light, and we want to offer back the “inner work life” that gives up the emotions, motivations and perceptions as suggested by Teresa Amabile in her co-authored piece “How leaders kill meaning at work.”  People need a sense of purpose beyond the mundane and it does come from the working conditions with the consistent actions to reinforce this, and this comes from the top of organizations.

Firstly we need to reflect on what innovation needs to overcome

Challenges to overcome

  • Innovation spans multiple time frames; it cuts across business disciplines and challenges the corporate silo. Every corporate boundary set up in physical space, in rules and regulations is already full of ‘yawning’ gaps for ideas and energy to flow across and close those disconnected gaps.
  • There are considerable hurdles for innovation to overcome. The larger your organization the harder it is for innovation to flow. Executives need to consciously work on breaking down boundaries, challenge fixed mind sets,inertia or dogma’s and conflicting needs that lurk in each corner of the building or across the global organization.
  • The ability to consciously encourage a positive supportive environment is vital. The ability to draw people in, to unite them over goals, priorities and their allocated responsibilities and how they are open and receptive are simply a daily task we need to work on, all the time.

Measures for the environment start with the ‘broad brush’ and then refine

  • Executives through a ‘broad brush’ approach can define interactions, behaviours and resolution procedures. These generalizations become important; they give you the line of sight, the ability to measure your environment and evaluate how it is functioning. Your can begin to ‘sense and feel’ this.
  • Organizations increasingly need to develop the conditions that allow people the collective abilities to react quickly and be more agile in their work. The ability to be authentic and get the true needs on the table, understood and shared provides closer association and part of any organizations greater alignment objectives
  • Then you seek out the ability to create top down, bottom up combinations and where you work consciously to reduce the middle that is often blocking this.
  • Finally, the combination of abstract levels for encouragement of fresh thinking and the ability to provide degrees of freedom to organize and act are important to build for the right environment conditions.

Structuring the conditions for the innovation environment

Organizations clearly struggle with complexity. Knowing where the knowledge resides helps unlock this. The growing use of centres of excellence can help here

There is an increasing recognition that knowledge management does need a system that structures it accordingly so people can explore its key phases to help them. I’ve written a fair number of times on Absorptive Capacity and its great value to managing the knowledge flows required for innovation. We need to acquire, assimilate, transform and exploit and our complexity needs to address these basic needs.

The openness to others both internal and external, needs creating the right open conditions to change, to exchange, to encourage that ability to act so as to capture and communicate opportunities that are flowing all around you, inside and outside your organizations.

A code of trust becomes so vital to creating the right conditions for an environment to innovate. I wrote some time about the two sides of an equation for shaping innovation. One was the environment and other was its governance. Governance must be explicit on trust and how it intends to foster and manage this. If you lose trust, you lose the pulse required for innovation. These two together offer the conditions to allow innovation to prosper or be constantly constrained.

The challenge is redesigning the new workspace

New Working Environment

We are working far more at managing by exception and innovation aids this learning. We are working through the combining of vertical and physical worlds, we are extending beyond our own ‘working’ environment increasingly. Environments need to permit individuals to ‘craft their own ways’ through what they learn, how they engage, what they contribute. Our environment needs to embrace a more social one. Knowledge understanding and translation need the right environment to be allowed to flow.

We need to give greater recognition to the organizations intangibles.

We can so much easier relate to the tangibles within our organization. If you can touch it, you can measure it. Well you need to understand the intangibles make up far more of the value of our organizations, some up to 80% and also are essential to understand their source. Intangibles within our environment are made up of the attitudes, outlooks, our ability, space and feeling that allows for greater creative thinking. They make up much within our relationships, networks and connections to allow us to work or block us to feel frustrated.

We seek to encourage open expression, to challenge strange and often those many constraints in our working conditions that need challenging and resolving to either thrive or die. These are invisible walls to the naked eye but can be as permanent as any walls or the things we can touch. Much within our make-up is very intangible and implicit and needs to find space to grow, be valued and be demonstrated in explicit ways. I’ve written before about thenested effects of knowing all our capitals.

Giving responsibility for innovation to everyone

Lastly, I wrote finding space for growing innovation and it brings me back to setting up the general conditions for the environment to innovate. These statements of intent have real value: We need shared responsibility for innovation, we need to encourage knowledge as a central task, we need to work on being ‘collectively conscious, knowing our space and beyond for contributing to innovation. We need to foster respect for others knowledge and expertise and we need to become increasingly adaptive.

The environment we must seek for innovation needs to provide the ‘dynamics’ within our organization’s social fabric, to allow the conditions we believe in too simply flow. Getting those general conditions established allows innovation to take hold and become our future culture.

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6 thoughts on “The environment for innovation does really matter

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