Tag Archives: culture of innovation

True innovators don’t have a culture that aims to please the boss

for innovation safe is riskyHow many strategic plans look a little bit different from the year before? 99.9% do.

When I say “a little bit different” I mean tighter strategies with incremental goals and objectives and more of the same activities as the year before. Yes, we’ve all seen this before. What’s ridiculous is that you may begin a strategy session thinking differently, but most everyone defaults to safe because “that’s not what the boss expects” when the time comes to decide on a course of action; a lot of good ideas are not considered because of this.

This situation presents itself in most businesses, but the ones who are able to leap ahead have one thing in common: they are ruled by ideas, not hierarchy.

It isn’t business-as-usual to be ruled by ideas

Over the last few months of 2014 I was involved in facilitating a strategic plan for a government created mechanism in charge of coordinating entrepreneurial activities in the city of Tijuana. They brought me in because they wanted to shake things up!

There were many challenges, but the main thing was to be more ambitious. Unfortunately, it’s one thing to say “let’s rethink our approach” and another to actually go forward with it. Well, that’s exactly what happened after the strategy sessions.

The ideas that were presented in the strategic plan were cookie-cutter versions of what happens in other entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world, in this case they are localized to Tijuana. The sad thing about it is that the people in charge of this government mechanism, the boss, vetted all of the ideas; even though they were the same as the year before.

Why did this happen?

Because the group of people that came up with the strategic plan wanted to shake things up, but only just a little bit. The result was almost the same set of activities as the year before, with incremental goals and objectives.

Not the recipe for shaking things up…

The best idea wins

In innovative organizations, there is a unique understanding that to shake things up one has to STOP doing what leads to more of the same and START doing what will lead to new and different. So, if the decision making process in your business is to go through a suit (business as usual) that values safe bets that lead to more of the same; now you know what will counter that: letting the best idea win.

How do you do that?

Easy, ask yourself some business shaking questions:

  • If we make a list of all the projects we are working on, do any of those have the potential to change our business significantly over the next year?
  • What’s the boldest idea we should work on?

Best and bold are subjective terms, so it is best to first develop a criteria for what you want. The criteria I use to describe innovativeness is: new, surprising and radically useful. Secondly, come up with some ideas that fit the criteria you defined. And finally, define a timeframe to see some prototypes and let people try stuff and don’t judge them if their idea fails.

Employee freedom and responsibility go together

The main point is people need freedom, support and challenge to make innovation happen; not to think twice about expressing themselves freely because they fear getting punished. Put simply, if you are afraid to say what you really think in a meeting, you are not free. You are a corporate slave.

True innovators do away with corporate slavery. True innovators trust people to do the right thing, and that starts with defining culture and then hiring for specific values and behaviors. Hiring is hard, it’s the most important job for any business, and there isn’t a cookie-cutter recipe to follow, but if you focus on hiring for brilliance you can be certain that the best ideas will win; not the loudest voice in the room.

Bottom line: A culture that values playing it safe, is a culture that stagnates. A culture that thrives is one where people and ideas that challenge the status quo are valued.

Is innovation really everybody’s job?

Is innovation really everybody's job?

A culture of innovation. That’s the Holy Grail, how do you get there? Everyone has their ideas and theories, and there is no shortage of examples that we can analyze over and over again. Yesterday, I wrote about the things that any organization can stop doing to open the door to innovation.

Being innovation-ready starts with people. And a common question that comes up is this: is innovation really everybody’s job?

What impedes employees from being innovative in the workplace?

 What impedes employees from being innovative in the workplace?

Much like the LinkedIn discussion that triggered it, last week’s post hit a nerve: can employees learn to be innovative?

A few people suggested we reframe the question to:

  • Can most employers learn how to stop blocking their employee’s innovative spirit?
  • How might employers let employees bring their passion to work?

There are many ways to look at it, and frankly I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Hard? Yes. Complicated? No.

Innovation must reads of the week: 3 innovation models

If you like these links, check out all the previous “Innovation Must Reads of the Week“. And don’t forget to

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Top 20 Innovation posts of the week: Smartfailing

Thanks to all the people who share links there was lots of content this week so the list ended up being longer than usual, all worth reading.

 

  1. Smartfailing – a new concept for learning through failure by
  2. – NY Times
  3. Sometimes Success Begins at Failure — HBS Working Knowledge via
  4. Survey Reveals Corporations With Centralized Innovation Departments More Likely to Have Focused Efforts via  
  5. Ideas are far more glamorous compared to the actual execution: Vijay Govindarajan via    
  6. The efficient use of ideas by
  7. Managers who understand how artists work will have a distinct advantage via  
  8. Idea Deficit Disorder – Stopping the Epidemic by
  9. Innovation ‘ s Biggest Paradox
  10. Try Something New: Experiments Can Lead to Success by
  11. Innovators field guide to finding unmet customer needs
  12. Quarterly Earnings Kill People-Based Innovation… – Fast Company
  13. The Idea or The Execution? Here’s What The Greatest Minds in Tech Say
  14. Beyond Stage-Gate: A new approach for innovation by
  15. Six Secrets to Creating a Culture of Innovation – HBR
  16. Innovation & the Status Quo: The perils of groupthink, stereotyping and system justification by
  17. Getting Down to the Business of Creativity — HBS Working Knowledge
  18. Creativity Matters by
  19. True Leaders Are Also Managers by
  20. ‘Ideacide’ (or 14 Ways to Kill Creativity) – OPEN Forum
culture of innovation