Want to create a culture of innovation? It starts with you.

7 tips to get you started

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Look at yourself. That’s the first thing you need to do before you ask someone to help you transform your organization into a creative and innovative entity. Many clients I talk to immediately assume they are personally ‘innovative’ and willing to accept thought provoking ideas. Yet when push comes to shove most stakeholders across an organization stick within their comfort zones and avoid challenge, confrontation and unique approaches to solving complex business problems. I’ve seen excuses ranging from…

All of those above probably sound like something you have personally said to yourself and have heard from others within your organization. Regardless of the excuse, true change starts with you.

“Regardless of the excuse, true change starts with you.”

So where do we start? You’re probably successful in your current role and have come up the ranks through a process intensive organization – measurement obsessed and delivery focused. That’s great but it completely lacks imagination, creativity and the desire to take a risk. You’ve probably read a couple of ‘culture of innovation’ articles which talk about high level umbrella terms like ‘collaboration’, ‘developing trust’, ‘inspiring’ and being ‘deliverable focused’. But none of that matters if you, as a leader, cannot adjust your behavior to support creativity and innovation.

So, let’s focus on you…

Rather than trying to implement vague umbrella terms which are so high level, have yourself focus on these 7 attributes as a starting point for your innovative cultural change.

  1. Pick the low hanging fruit: It’s easy to get supporters when you are able to demonstrate results quickly and with value. If you are going to take steps to implement new ideas in the workplace, look to using quick wins as a method for getting skeptics on your side.
  2. Think agile & quick: Start thinking in a way that’s urgent, fast and within a short timeframe. Avoid waterfall techniques for quick wins. Even if your organization doesn’t support you, once they see results within weeks, others will want to jump on that speed train and go along with your success.
  3. Humility: You are not the smartest person in your organization. Deal with it. It’s highly probable that many folks working across the company are not only brighter than you but are also ready to explode with suggestions and ideas. Tap into new hires, introverts and those who are full of energy. Filter through the suggestions and pick your low hanging fruit.
  4. Flat and open organizational structures: When I look at successful startups and large innovative organizations, it’s clear what they have in common– a flatter organisation structure with less silos. Do not place your ‘innovation lab’ or your new ‘data team’ in isolation so that it has to fight with a silo operating model. Learn to accept a flatter structure that will ultimately harness talent from all parts of the organization.
  5. Take smart risks: As large corporate entities, we are truly risk averse. If you are unable to challenge the organizational culture then you are not doing yourself a favor and you’ve only conformed to the old ways of working. Bring in newer technologies that can easily replace giant behemoths while reducing overall cost.
  6. Reward your direct reports: As your direct team members act and execute innovative ideas, you should reward the individual who demonstrated innovative value through any creative means. It’s imperative to show that you as a leader reward creativity and execution.
  7. Embrace failure: If you fail, move on. There is always passion at the start of an idea but if it fails, you must rally yourself and others to become passionate about the next idea. Do not dwell or become unwilling to trying new opportunities.

Champion these attributes for yourself. I don’t want you to preach what your organization needs to do, rather you need to live by these basic pillars and then lead by example. A combination of these attributes will inspire others to model your behavior.

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