5 Critical Steps For a Culture of Innovation

So you want to build a culture of innovation. It can be a long road to get the organizational culture you’re after, but the destination is worth it. I’ve got five steps to help you build a culture of innovation in your organization.

Avoid Innovation Theater

Innovation theater is when top-level leaders decide to implement an innovation plan without investing in the strategic changes necessary to grow an innovation culture. Doing this will sabotage a culture of innovation because you’re not making a true commitment to innovation or giving it the level of conviction that’s required at the leadership level to make it part of the culture. You’re just going through the motions.

Define Innovation

Innovation is something that’s a change from the status quo. It can be both a significant and minor transformation to the organization. Some innovations lend themselves well to departmental changes, while others spark a completely new product line.

At Innovation Junkie, we describe innovation in three phases:

1. Incremental innovation – We define Incremental Innovation as seemingly small actions, consistently applied over time, yield massive results. Gillette continually innovates on its razors’ features, such as more blades, heated options, and pivoting heads, which is an excellent example of incremental innovation. 

2. Breakthrough innovation – Breakthrough innovation pushes a company to the next level without radically changing the existing business model. SpaceX developing a reusable rocket is an excellent example of breakthrough innovation. This new type of rocket lowers the cost of space travel while maintaining the same business model. 

3. Disruptive Innovation – This type of innovation occurs when a company topples traditional models, replacing them with new ones that wouldn’t have previously worked before the invention. A great example of disruptive innovation is Netflix vs. Blockbuster. Netflix ultimately disrupted the old model by delivering streaming directly on your device. 

Communicate Your Innovation Strategic Direction

One of those necessary strategic changes is in the realm of an enterprise-wide communication plan. Making your innovation strategy transparent across all departmental disciplines is critical to building a strong innovation culture. When communicating the organization’s innovation strategy, it is crucial to recognize that this will increase awareness and the desire in some employees’ minds to help the organization attain the new vision. 

Invite Employees Into the Story

Innovation is a story that your employees want to have a role in. In my experience, when strategic innovation plans are put into place well, functional managers and employees will want to be a part of the story. These people mustn’t get lost in the mix. Change doesn’t happen because of top-down mandates; it happens when the people who create the culture of the organization change. 

One of the most important, often overlooked, keys to a thriving innovation culture is making sure the lower-level innovation leaders around the organization have a voice, and their voice is heard. Often innovative ideas hide inside the minds of the people we surround ourselves with every day. Allow your team to voice their ideas without fear of failure, which is the ultimate killer of innovation.

Swiftly Kill Ideas

Once your innovation culture change has happened, hopefully, you are receiving a flood of ideas. There must be a process in place to ensure as many innovations as possible are killed as fast as possible to maintain a strong culture of innovation. Below is a picture of an S curve. The Y-axis represents cost, and the X-axis represents time. You must kill impractical innovations quickly to ensure you don’t waste resources. 

Jumping the S Curve: Life Extension for Products - XP123

For organizations to thrive as innovative organizations, there must be a vetting process to ensure that quality ideas are pushed through the funnel. In contrast, swiftly kill innovations that would not be a good fit for the organization.

Wrapping Up

These were my five steps to help you build a culture of innovation in your organization. However, if you really want to spark change in your organization, you need to soak up all kinds of information on innovation, so you have the best chance of creating a successful strategy. We have tons of experts and resources here at Innovation Junkie to help you grow your business. We also have a podcast, so if you’re interested in building a strong culture of innovation, check out our bonus episode of the Innovation Junkies Podcast on How Organizations Sabotage Their Culture of Innovation.