Innovating well – what to look for
The areas that should be looked at are outlined below. Some of the conditions for innovation may seem ‘idealistic’ and it is extremely unlikely that the perfect organisation exists. All of the key areas are important and it is useful to identify how effective organisations are and whether any aspects of the organisation are being neglected. This only gives a broad overview. To get a detailed picture it is necessry to look at how creativity and knowledge are used and manged.
Within this area of focus we are interested in whether people work as individuals or in teams, how effective they are, and whether or not they are multi/single function. Another important factor is the degree of autonomy and whether bottom up communication is effective.
Here we look at how much interference there is by managers in every-day working and how prescriptive managers are. Also we are looking for what actions are taken when problems occur. Do managers take immediate control or do they trust the people working for them to resolve problems?
Desire To Win
Within this are of focus we look for evidence of a desire to win, to beat the competition. Even though there may be insufficient resources to carry out a project or implement a plan there should be a ‘yes and ..’ culture rather than ‘yes but…’. Good ideas can be kept for future use, not dismissed out of hand for lack of finances, time etc. There should also be evidence of doing everything that can be done to secure even the smallest advantage such as protecting Intellectual Property and seeking external help. Ideas should be welcomed from all sources and winning organisations are likely to be less risk averse.
Knowing How To Win
Organisations that know how to win will have a thorough understanding of their marketplace and all of the factors that affect it such as the economy and relevant legislation. They are willing to exploit these factors and be first movers or early adopters.
To be successful, organisations must be able to scan their environments and be aware of new competition, changes and spot trends and patterns. This information will then be used to determine key success factors within the marketplace and drive the building of strategic capabilities.
In order to maximise potential, it is necessary to nurture external relationships with both customers and suppliers. Is this being carried out regularly and effectively? Do organisations rely on single points of contact or do they interact at multiple levels, cementing ties? How well is information disseminated and vision, branding etc communicated to stakeholders?
Growing The Right Culture
A truly innovative culture relies heavily on intrinsic motivation. Employees must have a clear idea of what they are expected to achieve and of the amount of support that they have. Transparency on the part of senior management and ‘leading by example’ will build trust and encourage buy-in to strategic objectives. Motivation and morale should generally be high with little or no evidence of stress present.
Stretching To Achieve
When maximising potential it is often necessary to take employees out of their ‘comfort zone’. To do this successfully there must be an effective framework for delivering the necessary training and development. Individuals should be encouraged to use their own initiative (subject to any safety or legal constraints), be responsible for their actions and learn from their mistakes.
Getting The Best From People
In order to get the best from employees it is necessary to involve everybody. Not only does this improve the culture but it maximises the resources that are available for generating ideas, capturing and storing knowledge. The greater the variety of sources, the greater the potential for innovation. It is also helpful if there is mutual support between employees, managers, colleagues and peers, especially where risk taking is encouraged. Another important factor is the reward systems that are in place. These need not necessarily be monetary rewards but should recognise team rather than individual contributions.
See how the above can be measured using the Innovation Toolkit.