Does your business have a culture of innovation?

How many times have you been told: ‘That’s not how we do things here’?

How many times in the last six months have you introduced new ways of doing things or just new things in general into your business? Ideas are just the starting point, in order to be truly innovative, you have to bring those ideas to life. Innovation is an outcome, it’s the end result – not an activity in itself.

And it’s not just about new products and services. Innovation is about solving problems and finding new approaches, in any area of your business whether that be marketing, the product or simply how you recruit people.

If you want to develop a culture of innovation here are a few things to think about;

Be inclusive. It’s hard to predict who or where or when innovation will come from, it can take any form and come from anybody in the organisation –  make sure everyone knows that all ideas are welcome.

Change the culture. Encourage people to explore alternatives, make sure the need for change is understood, try to inject a sense of excitement and get people to ask themselves whether your products and services are good enough.

Use failure to learn. When things go wrong don’t just accept it, look what at what you can do differently to stop it happening again.  Recently a single comment in the office regarding a client forgetting to send their weekly paperwork has led to the launch this week of our text reminder service. Not earth shattering but something we haven’t done before.

Motivate. Find out what will drive people to contribute. ‘Money doesn’t cut it – it encourages behaviour that is counter to innovation as it tends to nurture competitiveness,’ says Bettina von Stamm, of the Innovation Leadership Forum. ‘Recognition will take you much further; in one leading company the boss invited the people who came up with the best ideas to his home and cooked dinner for them.’

Give it context. Tell your people what you are looking for. Rather than just asking for ideas, pose problems and challenges that are in line with the business strategy, that way you’ll get answers that could lead to valuable innovation.

Cast your net. Stories and examples from different industries are an important source of innovation. Great Ormond Street learned important lessons about transferring babies to incubators from working with Formula One pit-stop teams.

Co-create. Bring your customers into the process at an early stage – ask them what works and what doesn’t work.

Lead the way. Leadership is critical to innovation. As a leader, you do not need to be creative people, but you do need to create the right environment within the business to make innovation happen.

DO SAY:  ‘Everyone has the freedom and the ability to contribute to innovation in this organisation.’

DON’T SAY:  ‘We’ve never bothered with innovation before, why should we start now?’