Six ways to improve innovation through culture change

wazoku Blog

Based on the Innov8rs webinar on the same topic where Nicola Darke, Customer Success Director at Wazoku, Tim Westall, Co-Founder of April Strategy, and Hans Gillior, Founder of the Goodwind Company, each shared two ways to improve innovation through culture change.

You’ve been assigned the grand task of transforming a business and don’t know where to start? Don’t panic. We’ve worked with our paters, April and Goodwind, to pull together six takeaways you can implement in your business.

1. Adopt a beginner’s mindset to see the possibilities before you.

Believe it or not, not knowing where to start actually works to your advantage. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities while in the expert’s mind there are few. Be open to exploring rather than being too focused on the solution.

2. Be cross-functional and transparent to drive diversity and openness.

There is no room for bias or prejudice in the beginner’s mind. There is, however, room for transparency and diversity. Organisations are like a sales funnel – to find new deals and new routes to business, you need to be open to the idea of generating many new deals. The same applies to innovation – you need to be open to lots of ideas.

Diverse ideas won’t come from a select group of people or from individuals with similar characteristics, as creative as they may be. Diverse ideas come from people with diverse skills and the only way to reach these people is by transparency, inclusiveness and cross-functional work.

3. Why do you want to innovate… Set a strategic goal.

Most organisations will gradually decline if they don’t do anything differently – competitors will diversify, the environment will change, customers will expect more. There is no question that we should innovate, that’s a given.

However, it is important to frame innovation properly, setting it up in a way that people will take it seriously. The first thing to do to achieve that is to set a clear goal. The goal needs to be motivating, realistic, relevant and time-bound.

Goals are more powerful if they are expressed as a challenge or a vision. For example, ’We are going to enter market X and achieve top 3 position in X years.’

4. Decide which type of innovation you will do.

There are three horizons you need to constantly have in your sight and be aware what type of skills you need to go in each of these directions. Are you going to launch a continuous improvement programme, improve processes, think how you can cut costs? Or will you go to the other end of the spectrum and explore disruptive possibilities?

There is often a gap between these two approaches: You have the mountain where business as usual is performing, the other where innovators are transforming and the blind spot in the middle – the organisation’s gradual evolution.

5. Get leadership to understand the need for culture change.

Traditionally, leadership is about command and control to get the right focus of employees. Today’s leadership is about creating the right environment in the company that will foster innovation and productivity.

There is a reason for this shift – the key sources of failure are culture and behaviour. To change culture and build a strong and sustainable innovation system, you need six innovation capabilities:

1) Value – what is the purpose of innovation and how does it link to your business strategy?
2) Environment – create an atmosphere where employees are motivated and inspired to support innovation.
3) Ecosystem – innovation is not limited to the R&D department but is open to the whole company and its ecosystem.
4) Innovation management – what are the processes, tools and activities that boost innovation?
5) Intellectual property (IP) – be clear about IP ownership, especially when engaging your ecosystem.
6) Innovation value management – how do you measure the outcome of innovation?

6. Complete the innovation puzzle connecting trust and culture change.

The first thing to consider when you embark on an innovation or change programme, is trust. If we don’t trust each other, nothing is going to work. You build trust connecting four components:

1) Awareness – understand the corporate DNA code, the specific situation for this company. This will allow you to pull the right strings to start the cultural shift.
2) Coaching – inspire people and address their fear of change.
3) Anchoring and communication – how do you communicate to your employees what the mission of the change journey is?
4) Scenarios – create scenarios and tools for change.

In conclusion, innovation is not a goal but rather a way of being. It is a cultural, human challenge that has nothing to do with business, strategy or technology but it’s about human beings in an organisation. Easier said than done. There are many components you need to consider when you are shifting an organisational culture, starting first and foremost with your mindset.