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"It’s really not that difficult to decipher your innovation culture by looking at leadership behavior, organizational structure, business processes, metrics and incentives, rewards and recognition, and the stories and symbols that reinforce (or inhibit) innovation. By understanding the things that shape norms, values, and behavior, it becomes possible to influence them—and to create a culture of innovation."
Culture is the collection of unwritten rules, norms, and values that influence people’s behavior. When it comes to innovation, especially disruptive innovation, an organization’s culture can be either the rocket fuel or death knell of an organization’s ability to grow and thrive.
A culture of innovation is an environment that promotes freethinking, an entrepreneurial spirit, and sustainable value creation at all levels across all functions of an organization.
Products, services, and even business models become commodities over time. If organizations do not continually invent and reinvent their competitive advantage, they risk being disrupted into obsolescence.
Culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage. It’s the invisible secret sauce that drives employee engagement, innovation, business growth, and continuous reinvention.
Every organization must unlock its innovation culture in its own unique way.
What works for Google and Apple might actually kill innovation in other companies. Effective best practices must be artfully adapted to the unique personality of your organization.
"For many companies, coming up with ideas often isn’t the problem. The challenge is turning ideas into something real that delivers an impact. This is where metrics can make the difference between no ideas, lots of ideas that go nowhere, and real innovation."
Measuring profitability and the support of your customers is important, but it doesn’t tell you what specific behaviors will lead to more profits and more satisfied clients in the future. Your metrics need to define the end goal and encourage innovative practices.
Innovation metrics that define the end goal may include the number of clients who trade up to next-generation products or services, the business generated in new customer segments, or revenue from new markets. Metrics like these define goals, identify opportunities and promote innovation.
Once you have defined the end goal, you need to give people specific goals to reach our larger goals. Every employee should be aware of the importance they play in achieving the company’s goals and how they share responsibility for innovation.
"Measuring innovation also involves setting specific goals that will help fuel the process—the things you do internally to help you hit your targets. When you give people targets, they take on responsibility for hitting them. And in the process, they produce experiences and success stories that then reinforce more experiences. The goal is to jump-start this kind of positive feedback loop."
Here’s a model that any organization can apply to set up its definition of innovation and take a portfolio approach to allocate its time and effort:
Connecting your innovation intent to all three types of innovation helps link innovation to both the current and future direction of the organization.
Here are some examples of innovation intent statements that can do just that:
Without the focus an innovation intent provides, people tend to think innovation belongs to someone else (such as Research and Development) and assume it isn’t part of their job.
The lack of a thoughtfully defined innovation intent also makes it difficult for leaders to create specific programs, processes, metrics, and rewards that shape values and behavior, because specific expectations and measures of success usually aren’t clear beyond the call for “more ideas.”
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