When conducting workshops we often hear managers say; “I encourage my staff to be innovative,” or “My staff knows that they can come to me anytime with their ideas for improvements.”
However, when you ask the staff they often tell you that “we’ve tried to voice our ideas but nothing happens.”
Why this great divide?
Maybe the manager doesn’t really buy into the idea. The manager may be too far removed from the day-to-day operation and doesn’t fully understand the significance of the idea. The manager may be having too many other things top of mind, or, simply doesn’t know what to do with the idea.
How can this be fixed?
This great divide often comes down to the organization not having a corporate strategy and framework in place to deal with innovative ideas. In other words, the organization isn’t really actively pursuing innovation.
Innovation is more than a buzz word or the flavour-of-the-month. For many organizations, it’s about survival. Imagine if Apple or Samsung or Blackberry stopped innovating. If they did they may as well close their doors. They’d be out of business.
Some companies may not need to innovate to the degree and frequency as those mentioned. True. But being aware of evolving technologies and processes may be the difference between flourishing a business and being out of business.
Innovation: Corporate Strategy and Framework
Some innovative companies that MLEK has studied have very formal processes and practices in place that support innovation. Others are not as formal but have cultures that support innovation.
What has MLEK learned?
In studying organizations we have determined that the following elements are common to all successful innovative organizations:
Yes, MLEK agrees that organizations need to concentrate their efforts on present operations, i.e. sales, manufacturing, distribution, promotion, administration etc. MLEK also recommends that as part of the day-to-day operations of organizations there needs to be layer placed over-top that is an overall consciousness and awareness of opportunities for innovation.
In short, create an ever-present awareness among all employees that there are opportunities to innovate in all areas of the operation.
Developing a culture of innovation
Studies have shown that there are certain environments that people thrive in. These are environments where the organization has a clear vision of what it wants to become, where people feel that they can use their skills and know-how. A true culture of innovation is such an environment.
Starting at the top
To ensure that an innovative culture thrives and remains of outmost importance, leading innovative organizations create a senior position whose responsibility it is to keep innovation front and centre; to create such an environment; and to nurture this culture. The most well-known would be Steve Jobs who carried the role of CIO. Not Chief Information Officer, but instead Chief Innovation Officer.
These positions carry with them more than the responsibilities stated and send a clear message “that innovation is of huge importance” throughout the organization.
A communication strategy is a key part of developing this culture of innovation. This roll-out of a dynamic communications strategy is on-going and must be considerate of what people, at all levels of the organization, need to know and be aware of.
Managers have a key role in developing and communicating this “culture of innovation”.
Look for MLEK’s upcoming blog post on the role of leaders and managers.