Making an impact on an organization’s innovation environment

Our Innovation EnvironmentWhere do you set about to intervene and begin to change the organizations ability to innovate? There are seemingly so many intervention points it can get bewildering.

The innovation environment can be made-up of how well you collaborate and network, the level of group and individual interactions, the presence and commitment of leadership towards innovation, as well as the organizational set-up and structures.

You can explore the make-up of the innovation environment in so many ways.

So what makes up the environment to innovation?

It is the culture, management and its people who have a mutual dependency. Culture can enhance or inhibit the tendencies to innovate, it certainly has a profound influence on the innovative capacity and provides the rich nutrients to nurture innovation or kill it. Culture has always been regarded as a primary determinant of innovation.

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Delivering the innovation core: building capability, capacity and competency.

Building capabilities 4Each organization needs to understand its strategic resources to build continuously, so as to sustain and grow the organization; otherwise it will eventually die, starved of what is vital to sustain itself.

The resources provide the lungs that give oxygen; they need to constantly be nurtured, too breathe and pump new life into the existing.

For innovation the same applies, we need to consistently build our innovating resources, they give delivery of the healthy living cells to promote and sustain us in new value potential.

The problem is we often are not very good at maintaining our resources and innovation activity. We just simply do not sustain our efforts, we tend to allow them to drift along or become lopsided from one individual teams efforts, while the others simply ‘wallow’ Continue reading

Determining our culture governs the greatness within our innovation efforts.

Managing a fluid, rapidly changing culture that promotes innovation is complex. So often it is left to chance, left to individual experiment and interpretation, far too ad hoc in its design and progress.

We certainly need to find better ways to encourage and obtain a higher commit to our approaches into building ‘culture’ and all it covers into our thinking, if we want to really have innovation deliver on its potential. Unless the values, norms and beliefs are not clearly thought-through and consistently reinforced daily through a consistent flow of initiatives to change, to explore, to learn from, any movement can simply wither and die from this lack of ‘total’ dedication.

The question we need to ask of our management is this: “if you are wanting innovation then we all need to work through the determinants that encourage innovation together” and then set about communicating these that are highly valued and expected throughout the organization, so as to encourage them to support and make innovation happen.

A certain commitment and a lack of patience

The issue is this can take a lot of time and dedicated commitment and sadly, management lack both patience and often that commitment to “seeing it fully through”, they seem to get side tracked and move onto the next thing. I feel management is sometimes like grazing nomadic animals looking constantly for fresher grass, impatient for the green shoots that are appearing from their sporadic grazing. They have no patience for lasting cultivation.

Maybe we need an Innovation & Culture Officer, even just for a given time perhaps, or we mandate the human resource group to allocate clear dedicated resources for a significant time exclusively on understanding climates factors and then setting about creating the culture to innovate with the board’s complete backing.

Leaders have to set the style they want from an innovating culture

Leaders are in the best position to create the environment that determines the culture and from this comes innovations end result, the outcome they desire. Too little time is spent by leaders on thinking deeply about what type of environment they want, what type of culture they need, often it is left to chance, to others to evolve not by design but by chance and personal interpretation. How wrong.

Leaders who want innovation need to offer a positive, supportive environment where the attitudes, perspectives and beliefs are well articulated and communicated. Asking people to change is not a one-off event, it is a constant, daily ‘grind’ but if you provide the right environment and enablers that innovation requires, you can get a positive reaction and you then raise the cultural expectations. These raised expectations  eventually translate into making the change needed for creating a culture for innovation. Organization culture is either a barrier or the real enabler to innovation, for it to come to life and thrive.

Offering the sum total

Culture reflects the sum total of a way of life. It provides the patterns, the values, the traits and behaviours shared within an organization that can make or break innovation. It clarifies what is possible, tolerates and allows for experimentation, for trials, for learning to take place. It creates an environment where trust can grow and confidence is channelled more and more into innovation experimentation, engagement and exploration.

Culture has the most profound influence on innovation’s success, it can’t be left to chance, it needs carefully designing and nourishing and this can only come from the top allowing it to grow in well thought-through and designed ways. This climate being built often cannot be touched yet the actions can be felt in multiple ways to promote that environment where innovation flourishes.

Fostering the right climate is critical

The fostering of the environment, the building of the culture to pursue innovation means different things to different people. Changing the environment has a great chance of changing people’s behaviour. A systematic planting of  ‘new seeds’ will eventually ‘yield’ an innovation result that ‘feeds’ off of this new culture that can multiply and replicate. Yet it does take this concerted and dedicated time and effort to constantly explore, adapt and amend as it is actually a ‘living culture’ that needs constantly feeding and nurturing.

It means providing the space to stimulate; a place to promote fresh thinking so the generating of new ideas is managed in a place that fosters interaction and collaboration. An innovation environment is made up of creating the positive atmosphere to encourage and nurture, to reflect and learn from failures that will inevitably happen.

You need to link and communicate, to offer  a place  where it is the ‘norm’ to challenge, to explore multiple sources of ideas, to provide a process and guiding set of procedures to capture and translate different thinking. A place where multiple interactions and connections occur so as to make innovation real and effective by providing the right environment and conditions to explore and extract.

Connecting culture to innovation makes it potentially highly touchable.

Culture runs through everything we do when we engage. We can ‘feel’ culture yet we can’t touch ‘it’ yet it always touches us in so many ways. Innovation on the other hand we can touch, we can see, we can strongly relate too, it becomes tangible when it moves from an idea into the realm of reality as ‘new’ to the world. When you combine culture and innovation in the right ways it becomes a very powerful force that transforms and prevails, it mobilizes and can galvanize us to great things.

It is when culture offers us a more creative environment, one that gives us a greater security than one based on living in fear and insecurity we grow in confidence, we open up our minds to increasing possibilities, we want to learn and experience and these matter to innovations ultimate success.

Innovation takes on a powerful identity from its cultural roots that transform attitudes into actions that then become those eventual outcomes we look for in what we do – greatness in our innovation efforts – that can be seen, valued and held up for others to admire.