How To Build A Culture Of Innovation

Looking to build or reignite a culture of innovation? Here are some tips from the trenches.
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Are you considering investing in an initiative to build a culture of innovation? We have some tips for that! In this 2-part blog series, we share some insights from the trenches into what exactly is a culture of innovation along with ideas on how to kick-start a program in this space.

What is a Culture of Innovation?

Blog Cartoon - Culture of Innovation

If you’re a fan of The Office, you probably remember when Steve Carrel’s character Michael walked out into the main open area and loudly proclaimed “I declare bankruptcy!” To which, the a staff replied, “you can’t just “declare it, you have to file it.”(watch the scene here)

Like any well-intended initiative, you can’t simply “declare” you are an innovative organization or create a standalone innovation lab. You actually have to take the steps at the CXO level to make sure your organizational model supports innovation from the top down. In our experience, organizations that have successfully embedded a culture of innovation adhere to the values of innovation in all initiatives (outside of innovation), in addition to having a departmental function or innovation lab. 

To that end, you have to start somewhere, right? We recommend treating any culture of innovation initiative just as you would an external program and have provided a few insights on how to address these areas below:

  • Establish a charter or program plan to document initial concepts, along with CSFs and KPIs. This will be used to gain CXO alignment and consensus.
  • Develop a project plan / roadmap to track the key activities, deadlines, and performance. The expected outcomes will need to align directly to the CXO initiatives in order for this plan to have any merit.
  • Establish a regular cadence for evaluation alongside other innovation programs to assess progress and future actions based on previous successes. This will greatly improve your ability to regularly socialize the performance up and down the ladder within the organization. 

You’ve Got Approval To Build A Culture Of Innovation – Now What?

Blog Image - Culture of InnovationOnce you’ve gained CXO alignment on the initiative’s goals, you can consider different ways to implement the culture of innovation program. We recommend treating this as a formal internal program and assigning an internal resource to oversee it to make sure it’s being planned for and documented appropriately. To that end, you’ll want to not only document your concept, but also consider how it could work, and the impacts to other departments and how it will be mitigated. 

Make sure you include all of the following in your documentation:

  • Detailed description of the program concept (“what it is”)
  • Detailed description of how you envision the program logistically will function (“how it could work”)
  • Outline preliminary CSFs and KPIs to detail how the program performance will be measured (“how it will be measured” )
  • Overview of key stakeholders and what role they will have in the program (“who’s responsible”)
  • Outline of any strategic and tactical boundaries (“what is and isn’t included”)
  • High-level timeline for program prep and rollout (“key milestones”)
  • Any known potential barriers to the program development or ongoing management and how it will be mitigated (“roadblocks”)
  • Budget snapshot of funds that will be required for the first year of the program (“how it will be funded”)

If you need a program plan template, we have free resources available for use. Contact us!

How Do You Create Measurable Goals In Your Program Charter?

Blog Image - Culture of InnovationEstablishing KPIs and CSFs are essential components to developing a program plan or charter. How else will you know if the program is performing to expectations if you aren’t measuring your outcomes? If you’re unfamiliar with the relationship between the two, let’s have a quick review:

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators, whereas CSF stands for Critical Success Factors. You may have heard the terms used interchangeably, but it’s important to note that they are different, the two have a symbiotic relationship. CSFs are the cause of your success, indicating what resources are required to achieve it, whereas KPIs are the effects of your actions indicating when you’ve hit the expected mark. 

For example:

  • CSFs for a baker who is making a cake are focused on having enough of the right ingredients to bake the cake: flour, sugar, eggs, butter or oil, vanilla, etc
  • KPIs of baking a cake are specific criteria that help the baker to know whether it looks right and tastes good

KPIs should be specific enough for everyone involved to share the same benchmark for “tasting good” and “looking right.” Should the cake have a certain density –  light and airy or rich and dense? Should it be golden brown or white in color? 

Once your program is underway, the program leader will be responsible for making sure that all key stakeholders are routinely informed of the progress. In order to have meaningful insights to share, we recommend that all activities clearly define expected outcomes and any related performance metrics to be tracked. Then, you will be well-equipped to host a regular cadence for evaluation of the program and its metrics as they are achieved.

WHAT’S NEXT?

It takes time to deepen your internal impact and become a true innovation-led company. Building a culture of innovation starts internally – from the inside-out. Employees want to feel independent enough to own their innovative thinking and to pursue the ideas they are passionate about. In fact, if management effectively fosters a creative and open environment, innovation will happen naturally. 

When you’re ready to dig deeper, let’s talk about it! From brainstorming pilot ideas and creating program plans to full management, we can help you foster and manage a meaningful culture of innovation program for your organization of any shape and size.

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For further reading, we recommend checking out these articles:

>   10 Measures to Create a Culture of Innovation

>   Seven Ways to Foster Innovation

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