Improving Innovation: Company Culture.
An interesting paradox exists: Most companies fear change. Yet, they have to resist fear and take serious risks in order to innovate. How do you change that culture of fear that pervades most companies?
Change can be a tremendous opportunity, but there are no guarantees – it can also backfire and cause terrible consequences like profit loss, wasted time and resources, public humiliation, and other dismal failures. On the other hand, fear itself also causes companies to pay out lots of money for quick fixes to problems they should be solving permanently and internally.
So, how can you be sure you’re doing the right thing? Start by basing your innovations on sound principles, rather than on the latest trends, untested methodologies, and spaced-out ideas from self-dubbed “thought leaders.”
One thing is bankable – if you want to beat the competition and own your respective market space, your company will not accomplish this if they operate on a culture of fear. Don’t let the anxiety of ‘being different’ hold you back from delivering new products and ideas. Just test the waters properly first and always follow a sane, proven methodology each and every time.
Culturally speaking, how do you start encouraging innovation, rather than stifling it? Allow your employees to have some time to work on their own projects and improvements, and give them credit for doing so. When it comes to moving ideas and programs through development, eliminate as much of the red tape as possible. Meetings, talks, seminars, studies, reports, and ‘documentation-for-the-sake-of-documentation’ – all of these slow people down.
You can fast-track certain projects with a ‘Just Do It’ policy – that is, allowing certain ideas to circumvent the normal process if they come with a strong enough business case and fast-to-prove ROI. Keep in mind that budgeting a small amount of money for these quick-turn projects is crucial. Putting tools in place to streamline certain parts of the process is very important, but make sure these are planned and implemented with strong processes behind them.
Maybe most importantly, you’ll need to communicate from the top down and let everyone know that innovation will be the priority from now on. Get visionary leaders in place that know how to look at the larger picture and leverage the feedback.
Minimize the fear and get your culture right and you’ll see the wheels of innovation start rolling.