An innovation culture needs more than a rally cry from the C-suite to be truly embedded into business operations. Like any efforts to build a resilient culture, employees need to participate in and see the results from innovation management activity. Understandably many employees dismiss calls for innovation because of lackluster initiatives they’ve seen before.
To get an innovation culture off the ground you first have to offer your people a visible programme that, by its design, eliminates historic drawbacks created by “soft” innovation pledges.
To unpack these drawbacks we take a look at the perspective of innovation’s toughest critic – the oppositional employee and give them (with modern technology) the answer to tangible innovation – which they can believe in and be excited for.
Innovation takes too much time
After the Townhall rally speech on being innovative, the comment of the resistant employee often is: “when am I going to find time to do this?”. Inherently the problem in many businesses is that innovation is seen as an add-on or extramural activity to an employee’s busy work schedule.
Solution – Trim the fat
Every idea has a certain amount of work that needs to go into progressing it from a thought to a viable business solution. It’s the way in which this process happens that can radically reduce the amount of time people spend fleshing out an idea to get to sign-off. It’s important that time-draining activities are removed from your innovation cycle. Say no to processes like siloed departmental reviews and dated stage-gate processes that add more people and time to more phases with more meetings and more email trails.
Nectir offers one agile phase (we call them sprints), to get teams to rapidly collaborate on the development of a viable business solution. It’s all the right people at the right time, in one fast sprint.
Random ideas are pointless
Everyone has an idea about something. But not all of them are worth going forward with – especially the expensive free coffee machine that Sue wants. Some of the best ideation, however, comes from free-thinking. So where is the sweet spot between a meaningless idea and a powerful left-of-field breakthrough?
Solution – Set the focus
Create focus for your innovation programme, align them to your business strategy, key objectives or goals. Make sure there’s a purpose to ideation.
Nectir gives you the ability set up strategic focus areas and challenges that help employees channel their efforts. Strategic alignment is embedded throughout Nectir to promote aligned thinking.
Innovation is biased to innovation, not real business
Innovation is, of course, a core responsibility of the Innovation/Product Department. But it’s also the responsibility for everyone from chief exec to clerk. One department alone cannot manage the innovation capacity of an entire business.
So then why limit the responsibility of driving internal employee innovation through the innovation department’s agenda only. The risk here is that the challenges set by one department either address generic problems only or is biased to a select few that have the capability to solve a challenge.
Solution – Empower business to innovate
Innovation works best when the business as a whole drives innovation. While the innovation department (or similar) can set up an innovation programme each department head, and all their respective line managers, should be equipped to drive innovation within their areas. And who best to identify where ideas are needed than from the people at the cold face of it.
Nectir enables all line manager to set challenges, for company-wide participation or for line-specific ideation. The power and responsibility to set challenges live with anyone that leads a team.
Ideas are worthless if they aren’t executed
The reality is that collecting ideas is a fairly easy component of an innovation programme. And yes, some ideas are not worth progressing with. Good ideas, however, should have the best chance of coming to life. A good idea without an end-point of execution is destined to fall into a black hole.
Solution – Use the crowd to execute ideas
The collective intelligence of your broader team has an unrivaled ability to identify ideas with the right potential. But more importantly, the crowd also has the ability to enrich ideas to make them viable business solutions. Use the power of the crowd to quickly collaborate on selected ideas to move them from thought to viable business solution.
Nectir uses the collective power of your teams, across your business to collaborate in the development of viable business solutions (Sprint teams). And, these teams can reach out to the crowd for support, when they need it.
Experts are needed to review expert ideas
Many business ideas are borne from a specific, often specialized, problem. When innovation programmes rely on a team of “administrators” to act as a review council they are often limited by a lack of specialist insight into the core problem or opportunity. This is why many potentially groundbreaking ideas never see the light of day.
Solution – Get the experts to review, automatically
An innovation programme needs to make sure that the right people see high-potential ideas. If an idea submission’s next step is to a siloed review council then that idea’s prospect is decreased by a factor relative to the experience of the review council. A better way to do this is to make sure people in the know, often people within a reporting line (up and down the ladder), are privy to ideas most relevant to them. This makes sure that people with the right expertise can contribute and enrich an idea all the way through to execution.
Nectir uses the power of the crowd, as well as automatically generated line structures to ensure that ideas are seen by the right people and, if necessary, contain sensitive ideas to specific departments or business units.
The reality is that, for the most part, businesses position innovation as game-changing ideas and projects that will change the course of their trajectory. But in reality, 85% of impactful innovation comes from incremental business enhancement. Even the employee most resistant to innovation will resonate with the reality that in their daily work lives there are systemic challenges that they can solve to make their lives easier. With more relevance comes more understanding and more frequent action – the key ingredients for an innovation culture to formed. And by building this muscle memory into a culture you’ll certainly get the game-changing ideas as well.