Early Adopters, Follow These 7 Steps To Create An Innovative Culture

How Early Adopters Can Foster Innovation?

If you’ve read any of my PAID posts, you know that I’m a big fan of working for an established company; a company that values your contributions and provides an opportunity to grow. Working for an established company can be very rewarding, but it can be difficult for the “internal innovator” to fight the corporate immune system.  Established companies have valuable internal controls to mitigate risk but unfortunately these systems can stifle innovation.

As an Innovator/Early Adopter in an established company you are able to create ideas, but if those ideas die with the individual they really aren’t of any value.  This leads me to the root of the problem, how can you drive changes within your organization?

Culture Conflict

Where does conflict come from? Individuals I talk to suggest they don’t feel empowered or incented to push the envelope. This is surprising since most CEOs value innovation as a market differentiator.  The answers I hear most eventually boil down to culture. Many executives want to promote innovation but have not adjusted their corporate systems to promote an innovative culture.

So how do you change the culture? More importantly how you do it in a manner that drives results.  Mere words of working better together doesn’t change culture.  Actions speak louder than words.  The next section provides specific actions that drive an innovative culture.

7 Steps To Creating An Innovative Culture

1.  Get an Executive Sponsor

It’s not difficult to find an executive that believes that innovation can drive new products, services and efficiencies.  Find that executive.  Get their support and use that as air cover going forward.  Have your innovation executive sponsor talk broadly about how important innovation is to the organization. Don’t skip this step.

2.  Fight For Innovation

Yes.  Fight.

Prepare yourself to battle norms and push envelopes.  In general, you need to cause a stir.  You are going to be the sharp end of the spear.  You will do this with grace and determination.

Note: do not proceed to this step without first completing Step #1.

3.  Create Innovation Teams

It’s my experience that change agents (you!) are not enough to foster innovation.  You need others to join your charge to create a movement.  A great way to do this is to create innovation teams be they within departments or cross-functional.  Lead these teams to tackle business problems and unexploited opportunities.

4.  Create Bandwidth

Teams that are running at capacity do not have the quiet mind required to create new thoughts.  If innovation is expected (and it is), set aside time for innovation.  Set deadlines and timelines for innovation just as you would any project.  Meetings to review ideas and determine next steps will help keep the ball rolling.  You want to innovate in real-tine, but schedule regular checkins to make adjustments and identify obstacles that need to be cleared.

5.  Build On Ramps

Once your innovation teams are up and running they should be generating ideas.  The problem becomes how do you take the best of the ideas and gain broad approval and support?  Since these are ideas are new, they are not budgeted for.  There is no capital or expense budgets set aside.  Nor are there any staffing allocated.  This is a critical juncture in the life of an innovation.

An organization can’t know what innovations it will create, but it can set aside budget and resources as part of the annual plan to support the most important innovations within the company.  An innovation review process along with sufficient budget planning should provide the necessary “on ramps” to move ideas forward.

6.  Incentivize Innovation

The best way to have a great idea is to generate a LOT of ideas.  By now you have your innovation teams humming and you’ve had some successes.  It’s time to turn up the volume.  Unleash the power of the organization by making it everyone’s job to solve business problems and offer new ideas.   Implement processes that capture ideas from anywhere in the company.  Recognize the best ideas with small stipends and executive level recognition.

7.  Show Returns

In an early post Kristi said that early adopters can get others interested in their ideas by demonstrating the value of the ideas.  That’s a great point.  It’s easy to fall in love with our ideas but we need to be prepared to explain them in plain terms that stakeholders understand.  Always be thinking about WIIFM (what’s in it for me) — well what’s in it for others so they can get behind your idea and help sell it.  Show people the business results of innovation.  Give thanks.

Rinse. Repeat.


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  1. […] I wrote about 7 Steps To Creating An Innovative Culture.  Step 5 is to create “On Ramps”.  I’d like to drill down a bit more into that […]

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