When you build a culture of innovation, who benefits? From my work with organisations I’d be fairly willing to bet that your top answers would include customers, employees and the organisation itself.
And it’s fairly obvious why. Customers of innovative organisations receive the benefit of agile solutions which are created in answer to real needs and delivered by exceptional levels of service. Employees working within innovative organisations benefit from working in a collaborative environment which praises and nurtures traits such as empowerment initiative and inclusivity. And innovative organisations benefit from offering differentiated market leading solutions; thereby attracting a loyal customer base, a strong reputation, and increased levels of profitability.
But that’s not the whole story, because innovative businesses also benefit the wider economy. And if you go one step further and put innovation into national and governmental organisations then the benefit spreads across society as a whole. It’s this sort of thinking which helps to drive the UK’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and it’s this sort of thinking which has led to the Australian government recently announcing a $1 billion package to promote business research, ideas generation and innovation.
If it’s not on the top team’s agenda, it’s not going to be in the culture.
The spirit in which the announcement was made underlines the understanding which the Australian Government has for the concept of innovation. This was no straightforward R&D package although R&D was covered within the announced measures. But so were some of the key planks of a culture of innovation including collaboration and agile development.
For example, the Australian government is looking to open up collaboration between businesses, researchers and universities; taking product innovation away from being a purely business solution and into the wider marketplace. When it comes to agile development, one of the key pressure points can be the idea that failure should be punished rather than seen as a learning exercise. In a bid to turn this legacy attitude around, insolvency laws that “focus on penalising and stigmatising business failure” are being revisited in an effort to promote more open development.
Refreshingly, this changing attitude towards failure and risk also come through in the way in which the Australian government has approached their innovation ambitions. Commenting on the initiative, PM Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged that some of the policies may not work but that the time had come for governments to move away from risk-free watered-down policies and towards ones which could drive change. In his remarks he said that “If some of these policies are not as successful as we like, we will change them. We will learn from them. Because that is what a 21st century government has got to be. It has got to be as agile as the startup businesses it seeks to inspire.”
Openness, collaboration and agility
Openness, collaboration, agility, accepting failure as a learning point; all of these are key elements of a culture of innovation which can drive growth and create game changing solutions. As Mark Turnbull said, ‘this is the opportunity of the 21st-century’and it is an opportunity which is open to every business and every organisation from government level right down to one-man bands and start-ups.
Admittedly it’s not transformation which can be undertaken lightly. Changing attitudes and values, beliefs and behaviours, not to mention processes and procedures, can be difficult at the best of times, particularly if the organisational culture has been long established. And you can’t simply overlay innovation expectations on top of an existing culture. For success, innovation ideals have to be baked into the organisation’s DNA, transforming the culture to one in which innovation becomes part of every aspect of the organisation.
Ultimately, successful transformation to an innovation culture rests on the leadership. That means leaders have to become fully engaged with the new innovation ideals and demonstrate them through their every action; in other words they have to change their mindset so that they think innovation, live innovation and breathe innovation into every decision. When we look at innovative businesses the entire leadership team therefore has to embrace the innovation strategy; when we look at innovative countries then we look towards governments and governmental organisations to lead the way.
When you build a culture of innovation, who benefits? More importantly, are you ready to embrace the potential which innovation can bring?