Culture is about the unwritten rules. The way things get done around here. So what type of culture supports and fosters innovation? This is hard to define, but if we had to describe what it feels like, it would probably be a place where:
- People aren’t satisfied with the way things are, there is a desire to improve and make things better
- Leaders want to hear and be involved in the development of new ideas
- Assumptions are regularly and openly challenged, in meetings and discussions, regardless of where someone sits within the hierarchy
- People always talk about the customer – it is at the heart of what you do
- Active listening is practiced and feedback is routinely provided and acted upon
- Teams regularly work with external partners and seek insights from outside the organisation
- Teams are backed to take risks and failure is celebrated, as you recognise it brings you one step closer to success
- There is no blame game
- Ideas lead to action and results are measured
How can you help to develop this type of culture?
- Encourage dissatisfaction and team participation
Ask your teams to let you know about an area where they feel things could be improved. This is not about encouraging teams to complain about what isn’t right. It is about action and encouraging people to be part of finding a solution. Provide space, time and opportunity for teams to collaborate and work together. Initially, you may wish to set specific challenges for teams to work on, but over time, you can encourage teams to prioritise their own ideas if you have some defined overarching principles. Provide new learning and development opportunities such as Design Thinking, Idea Generation techniques, trends in Digital Transformation, Analytics for beginners to develop knowledge and curiosity
- Lead from the front
Get out there and talk about the type of culture you want to create. Motivate and inspire your teams to want to be part of it. Identify the behaviours you are looking to change and ensure you have clearly communicated these to your leadership team. They should be in no doubt about the expectation that they will role model these behaviours, so you don’t develop a ‘say-do gap’.
- Demand evidence
Do not let assumptions go unchallenged. If you are looking at a business case, ask for data to back up any statements.
- Collaborate with your customers
To put customers firmly at the heart of what you do, adopting an agile approach when developing concepts is key. This involves co-design, early prototyping and testing, learning and iterations rather than striving for perfection.
- Embark on a programme of customer listening, designed to understanding pain points, their challenges and needs
- Seek out opportunities to co-create a solution – you can start small, but you want to evidence that this works
- Use customers to test out prototypes before they are in their final iteration and share what you have learnt from doing this
- Embrace listening and feedback
Do you regularly review the feedback you get from your customers and peers? To show this is valued, you need to act upon it. If you do this already, ensure you are communicating some of the learning and show how you have acted upon it. If you don’t do this yet, seek out an opportunity to act on feedback which has been captured and share this with your teams.
- Reach out
Bring in external parties to stimulate thought and discussion. Identify a list of organisations which you would like to work with or visit to gain a different perspective. Look outside your sector to identify where there are opportunities to bring in knowledge and experience from others, to challenge your thinking and assumptions. This can include identifying potential partners to work with and learn from. Involve your teams in creating this list and then work on a plan to make this happen.
- Define your risk appetite
Identify some areas where you are willing to take on some risk and spend some budget and challenge your teams to come up with some daring ideas. Communicate which ideas have been progressed and why and also which haven’t and why. Celebrate the learning which you have taken from this initiative.
- Encourage accountability not blame
We have all sat in meetings when something has gone wrong and the first question which is often asked is “Who is responsible for this?” which is code for “whose fault was it?”. Blaming is very common in many organisations but it means that we don’t tend to look closely at the reasons why something hasn’t been successful. Removing blame, means we can objectively review why something hasn’t worked out and learn from this. Which should be something which is prized. You can start by doing a lessons learned review on a project or piece of work which hasn’t been successful and encourage the team that worked on it to be as honest as possible about why things have not panned out. Being open and sharing this learning is key to starting to break down a blame culture.
- Evaluate results
One area where many organisations are not particularly mature is on making sure that the delivery of benefits from any idea which implemented is managed and assessed. You can start to challenge this by ensuring that periodic benefits reviews are baked into plans and again, share the learning from each review. This will ensure that teams become used to the idea that checking whether a purpose was achieved and measuring results actually matters to your organisation.
Top tips on beginning a culture change journey
- Start with something small but tangible
- Talk with your teams to understand what their assumptions are – do they believe they can get involved? What is getting in the way?
- Create time and opportunity for people to experience something different
- Be specific about the behaviours you want to see and celebrate it when you witness them in action.
For more information about innovation initiatives in your firm, please contact Tiggy Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 07826850191.