How to Create a Culture of Innovation

Success is driven by forward-thinking innovation. It’s one of the key that differentiates the has-beens and the will-BEs. And companies that are able to create a focus around innovation tend to have the most economic success. In fact, a study by McKinsey found that 98% of the economy is influenced by modernization and digitalization; and in the next 10 years, 50% of current Fortune 500 companies will be replaced, making room for more innovative organizations. So we know one thing is true: if an organization is not moving forward, it’s falling behind.

Creating a Culture of Innovation

According to Nicole Hepburn, PhD., of the tech company MaRS, a culture of innovation is an “environment that supports creative thinking and advances efforts to extract economic and social value from knowledge, and, in doing so, generates new or improved products, services, or processes.” She went further to delineate the difference between a healthy culture and a thriving culture of innovation, saying that a healthy culture embraces a shared set of values that reinforces the importance of innovation, with an integrated pattern of behaviors supporting those values. And taking it a step further, the thriving culture “can leverage the existing strengths of a given research and innovation ecosystem.”

While taking your culture to the healthy and thriving stages will take time and effort, laying the groundwork now is the first step in ensuring a strong innovative future for your organization.

Supporting Creative Thinking

Building an environment that supports creative thinking begins with recruiting for creativity, retaining creative thinkers, and cultivating an open space for creativity. LinkedIn Learning surmised that “Creativity is the single most important skill in the world.” And while 94% of hiring managers say it is important to consider creativity when hiring a job candidate, only 35% of workers are given a few times a year to be creative at work.

Creative thinking should not just be utilized for annual brainstorming, but it should be part of your daily activities in the office. Consider going outside the box to find ways to not only be more creative, but to allow your employees to cultivate creativity in their job duties, as well as team meetings.

Extracting Value from Knowledge

The most important aspect a company has is its workforce. Whether utilizing a 10-person team or a 1,000-worker enterprise, the combined knowledge, experience, and expertise of a company’s employees are a priceless commodity. However, some companies either aren’t able to take full advantage of this commodity, or simply don’t. This missed opportunity not only holds a company back from reaching their full potential, but it can also drive down engagement and productivity.

According to Forbes, employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to be empowered to do their best work; and highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable. Building a wealth of knowledge from your team starts with having open conversations with employees. Ask open-ended questions to find out what they are interested in and what further expertise they bring to the table.

Generating Improved Products, Services, or Processes

The third aspect of building a culture focused on innovation is to use the combined creativity and knowledge of your organization to generate improved products, services, or processes. Regardless of the current success of your company, there is always room for improvement. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to come up with the next billion-dollar idea, it could simply be brainstorming ways to close redundancies, improve customer care, or develop streamlined processes. Innovation through incrementalism can be more effective long term than by moving forward through leaps and bounds.

By incrementally improving a company’s products, services, and/or processes, an organization takes each improvement one step at a time. Change can be a wonderful thing, but when done incorrectly, it can cause stress and anxiety. By allowing employees to express ideas to improve, the company can then take steps forward to generate improvements.

How has innovation helped your organization? What do you do to create a culture of innovation? Let us know in the comments section below!


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