When FastCompany published 6 Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation, within the first few days the article received thousands of tweets and shares from FastCo’s page alone. It went on to become one of the year’s most popular pieces on innovation.
Why such keen interest in this topic?
Many leaders and organizations have finally recognized that real innovation isn’t about creating finely tuned processes, using new fangled methodologies, or creating 2×2 matrices. Rosebeth Moss Kanter essentially argued this a few months ago in her Harvard Business Review blog.
More and more of my clients are telling me that “we have plenty of ideas, we just can’t get traction with any of them.” They’re stuck. The reason: their company cultures stifle innovation.
I recently spoke about this very challenge at the Human Capital Institute. The 300 HR managers in the audience raised their hands in agreement when they were asked if “the soft stuff” was their company’s biggest barrier to innovation. The problem is that it’s really, really difficult to mix up just the right recipe of a culture that truly supports and fosters innovation.
Here’s a succinct synopsis of the six strategies for creating a culture of innovation:
- Be intentional with your innovation intent – Frame the way you want to change the world and make it about the customer.
- Create a structure for unstructured time –Provide employees with “unstructured” time to explore and tinker.
- Step in, then step back – Provide tools that give guidance and structure, but let employees decide how best to use and apply them.
- Measure what’s meaningful – Because “you get what you measure,” select metrics that reinforce your innovation goals.
- Give “worthless” rewards – Don’t just recognize people through formal awards, but rather promote recognition everyday through informal interactions.
- Get symbolic – Understand that mission statements, awards, stories of successes and failures, posters in the hallways, catch phrases, and acronyms all shape culture. Create your own symbols that reinforce innovation values.
The soft stuff truly is the hard stuff. Which is why I also recently posted a new tool I created for culture design called The Culture of Innovation Canvas.
Anyone can fill out a checklist, complete a PowerPoint template, and design an ideal type model. While strategies and tools are still important, navigating the dynamics of organizational culture is increasingly being recognized as the most critical success factor for business success. And those who learn to curate culture to support innovation will become the stewards of the future.
Want more detail? Check out the original version of 6 Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation.