By Brian Reuter, VP- ORC International; and Ashley James, VP- ORC International
No matter how large or small an organization, it can’t effectively implement its strategy without the buy-in and commitment of not only leadership, but employees as well. Nowhere is this more evident when it comes to innovation. Leaders who are committed to innovation, and have it at the heart of the organizations also have employees that believe in the mission, embrace it and understand how to achieve it. Culture is the key and will make or break your ability to grow and innovate.
But many companies have barriers that stand in their way from getting started. Innovation clearly has many benefits for organizations and employees alike. So why is it so challenging to give innovation a priority? Here’s a few reasons why…
• Resources– It takes time, money and resources to innovate. But especially in a down time, when resources are scarce, management tends to focus efforts on more controllable parts of the business- like account management, cost control, etc. It’s hard to dedicate resources to innovation, especially when there’s no sure fire bet it will work. Although many organization realize innovation can be key to growth.
• Culture– Employees need to be empowered to innovate, yet cultural issues inhibit this. Failing to reward or recognize employees’ efforts and not equipping them with the skills, confidence and autonomy to innovate gives people no incentive to invest the time in thinking outside the box.
• Fear of failure– Fear of failure, a by-product of culture, also inhibits innovation. This comes as no surprise, since expecting employees to put their heads on the line and suggest new ways of doing things, when reprimand is the consequence if those new ways don’t work out, is a big ask.
• Collaboration– working collaboratively together may seem like an easy concept, but for some organizations, it’s harder than it seems. Sometimes processes, procedures and structural frameworks make it difficult for teams to effectively share idea and work together- inhibiting their ability to innovate.
But many of these barriers can be easily overcome if leadership commits to innovation. So how do you enable a culture of innovation if you don’t have one? The responsibility for innovation should lie across all parts of your organization, but it starts with leadership. If innovation is part and parcel to the core of your organization’s mission- it will be a priority no matter what the challenge. Leadership’s job is to set the tone, pace, and focus on innovation- as well as infuse it into all aspects of the organization. Ways in which leadership can demonstrate the importance of innovation include:
• Convince the organization that innovation matters
• Focus on the right innovation projects
• Hire for will, train for skill
• Encourage and demonstrate risk taking
• Measure success
And those leaders and organizations who do it best, not only communicate it well and embrace it, they also create a focused environment aligned to support and inspire innovative ideas and collaboration including:
While making (or breaking) innovation does start with a commitment from the top, it’s important to engage and involve employees at all levels of the company. Communicating, creating forums of innovation, and giving employees opportunities to experiment are keys to driving innovation and uncovering your next big initiative. And according to our latest Winning Workplace study employees who work for a company where innovation is valued are three times more engaged than those that do not. By using innovation as a creative way of engagement, it can not only lower issues with turnover, it can spark the next big ideas. And in terms of the bottom line, 85% of executives say innovation delivers cost savings as well as improving the customer experience.
Interested in learning more? ORC is hosting an upcoming roundtable Thursday, April 20 featuring more on a creating a culture of innovation. Want to attend? Visit our event website: www.orcinnovationroundtable.com.