One of the characteristics of great organisations is the ability to develop a culture of innovation. This is a culture that puts a system in place to help the business always develop new-to-the-market products as well as improve on existing products seamlessly. It will be a herculean task bridging the gap between your business, the market and your customers if innovation is not a way of life in your company.
Innovation is like a switch, without turning on the right knob, it will not be enabled to work for your business. In Nigeria, many businesses are yet to enable the innovation culture; they still operate a laggard culture i.e. they are slow to innovate, they focus most of their abilities refurbishing or repairing past innovative successes and soon, they are driven out of the market without knowing it – the Blackberry Company is an example. They have perfectly developed a culture to renovate (fixing current problems) rather than developing a culture that will enable innovation (building and testing new solutions) in their businesses.
If your business is stuck already in the renovation culture, it’s time to stop fixing problems with old solutions. You need to move away from repairs, restoration, and reconstruction of ideas to novelty, advancement and originality of ideas by building a culture of innovation into your business. Here are a few steps you can take towards developing a culture of innovation in your business:
Decide what innovation really means to your business
Culture is a way of life, and what makes a culture tick is the shared language and understanding of phenomenon. Building a culture of innovation requires every member of your organisation to speak the ‘same language,’ and have a common understanding of what innovation means to the business. This common understanding of innovation in turn reflects on every task carried out in your company. Organisations define innovation differently, and this definition is affected by the availability of resources as well as the goals the businesses set out to achieve hence, you cannot define innovation in your business the way your competitor did. You will never get the same result.
Make learning a habit
The first law of innovation is learning and acquiring new knowledge. It is knowledge that drives innovation. Creating an innovation culture entails being a ‘learning company.’ Open up the information system within your organisation, work on improving the level of interaction among employees on one hand, and with the outside world on the other. There is nothing like a lone genius, great innovations came about as a result of multiple interactions amongst people. Like Tom Kelly, CEO of the design firm IDEO pointed out, “Y our only real path to innovation is through people. You can’t really do it alone.” Learning as much as possible from both within and outside your business puts you in a better position to always innovate.
Change your perception of risk
Nothing fuels innovation like a free atmosphere to exercise your mind. Many organisations are slow to innovate even with smart employees because there is no room for failure. Developing a culture of innovation in your company requires creating an atmosphere where people are not afraid to fail. While it is good to be cautious in taking certain business decisions, care needs to be taken to avoid shutting out ideas that may yield innovative products. According to NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, UK, “Make it routine and acceptable to talk about ideas that were tried but ‘failed’. Work from the mindset that the only ‘failure’ is the failure to learn, and that not sharing and learning from things that don’t go as planned is waste and lost productivity” When innovating, don’t think of success or failure of an attempt, rather talk about the lessons learned.
Finally, while moving from a culture of renovation to innovation is challenging, entrepreneurs must see to it that they nurture an environment that will introduce new ideas and new ways of thinking by modelling their business strategy around innovation, and developing a system that challenges the norm.