This is the second in a three part series of articles exploring why Innovation matters now at the end of 2009, which has been such a difficult and turbulent year for most businesses. My new Business Innovation & Growth at AllBusiness.com will focus on practical approaches toward demystifying Innovation and Growth while providing tools, resources and examples for businesses of all sizes and types to gain traction in 2010 and beyond.
Our focus today is on Culture within any company and how it affects Innovation strategies, either positively or negatively.
Assessing Your Innovation Culture
In the first article in this series, we discussed how to take the first steps in developing an Innovation Strategy. The key questions that need to be answered are:
- What is a company’s motivation to develop an innovation process?
- What has the company done in the past in terms of innovation?
- What are the company’s strengths and opportunities?
- How will the company’s employees and culture react to a new innovation process?
All of these questions are important to answer but the last one is critical. Any business can move toward developing an overall Innovation Strategy by answering the first three questions. But to actually execute an Innovation Strategy a business’s people and culture must be aligned with the plan for it to work.
Here are a few suggestions to accurately assess the culture in any business in terms of readiness to develop an effective Innovation Strategy:
- Understand the political environment within a company and how it has affected Innovation and Profitable Growth efforts in the past.
- Be clear about the personal innovation philosophies of senior leadership.
- Understand the constraints likely to get in the way of developing and implementing an Innovation Strategy, such as:
- Readiness to Change: Honestly assess the company’s readiness to change, because any innovation strategy will inevitably drive changes in the way the company works
- Ability to Implement: At the same time determine the company’s ability and willingness to implement an innovation strategy based on past efforts
- Dysfunction: Acknowledge any departments or individuals who could sabotage an innovation strategy because it might threaten their jobs or authority
- Silos: Determine how “Silos” work together. Are there problems currently that could impact how different departments, divisions or functions would work together to execute an Innovation Strategy?
- NIH Syndrome: Is there evidence of the “Not Invented Here (NIH) Syndrome”? In other words, how open is the culture to new ideas from outside the company?
- If senior leadership supports innovation and creativity enthusiastically and is willing to commit resources, then an Innovation Strategy can more aggressive and revolutionary.
- On the other hand, if senior leadership only supports innovation compartmentally, then an Innovation Strategy must be more conservative and not push too far beyond the boundaries of existing products and services.
- Make sure to understand the levels of risk and uncertainty that senior leaders and the company itself are likely to tolerate and commit to in terms of an Innovation Strategy.
- If it is apparent that the company’s Innovation Culture is reasonably sound and that “Silos” work together well, then be prepared to explore the spaces between these silos for collaboration and new ideas.
- If the company’s Innovation Culture is not aligned well, then be prepared to take smaller steps to engage different departments or Silos as a part of an overall Innovation Strategy
Article #3 in this series will address Innovation Process, so stay tuned!