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One of the most significant strategic challenges for any innovation effort has to do with goals. When executives ask their teams to “be more innovative” it’s often unclear how innovative and what the ultimate goals for innovation should be. Historically, organizations are risk-averse, thus goals for innovation are often set very low or fuzzy, which results in incremental verses disruptive innovation.
Successful innovation programs include specific goals that are communicated and measured across the organization; plus top talent, processes to support successful execution and alignment with the overall corporate strategy. Most importantly, these elements require a corporate culture and leadership that support innovation.
In Scott Anthony’s HBR article The New Corporate Garage, he talks about “the corporate catalyst”, the individual who catalyzes innovation in the firm. Often times the corporate catalyst swims against the tides and succeeds despite corporate culture, not because of it.
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How well does your organizational culture support high levels of collegiality, teamwork, dialogue and debate? One key to delivering both operational excellence and innovation is having networks of formal and informal collaboration. We have seen that innovative solutions often emerge unexpectedly through informal and unplanned interactions between individuals who see problems from different perspectives. Steve Jobs once said, “… but innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem.” Does your existing work culture and reward system provide opportunities for connections and collaboration or do you ostracize the corporate catalyst?
Do you leverage collective intelligence via Web 2.0 tools to share information, ideas and insights productively? Today’s collaborative technology offers the possibility of making decisions in ways that are very different from the corporate norms of the past. Through these collaborative approaches, more people are able to bring their diverse experiences to bear and provide input on key decisions, yet the decision process can be swift and not bureaucratic.
Most Fortune 500 companies are built to execute a known business model, not to create or explore a new business models. Some companies are creating “innovation incubators” within their organizations, while other companies are moving to a less hierarchical management and integrating entrepreneurial behaviors with their existing capabilities. Do your leaders encourage healthy debate? Allow experiments or pilots and acknowledge that mistakes are part of the innovation journey? Do your leaders support associational thinking- drawing connections among unrelated fields? Top executives understand what’s at stake and are modeling the way to create a paradigm shift in their organization.
What will your company do differently in 2013?
Smart companies understand that they need to focus on creating an innovative, collaborative culture and align their internal structures to support it to be successful in today’s competitive, demanding environment. What are your innovation goals for 2013? What are you going to do to support the corporate catalysts in your organization? How can you treat negative feedback and performance difficulties as learning opportunities? What shift do you see happening in your culture to support innovation? How do you plan to celebrate your innovation success in 2013?
Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season- I look forward to your comments.