“Any culture, whether it is one of innovation or anything else, is driven by senior management.”
With all of the industry alphabet groups advocating for our best interests and best practices, we often forget that the best and most effective advocates are with us right now; in other words, the people in our organization. The people in your organization, through their efforts, demeanor and energy level, are (or at least should be) advancing your organization’s best interest. Of course, best interest is also those things that help contribute to the company’s long-term viability; things like sustainable innovation, etc.
In my work helping companies drive innovation and identify innovators, I am frequently astounded at how many organizations fail to identify innovators already on the team and fail to identify innovators when screening new applicants. Either these organizations do not want innovators or they don’t appreciate the importance of continuous, sustainable innovation.
While I do believe that there a select few organizations that truly don’t want innovation and/or innovators on their team (aka the way we do it now, is the way we did it before and the way that we’re going to continue doing it), I refuse to believe that most companies don’t want innovation and the innovators that drive them. So the first theory is out.
The second theory is also suspect. I believe every company wants to find that next great thing, process or idea and fully exploit it in the marketplace. As such, these companies appreciate the value of innovation but yet, still struggle to consistently and sustainably innovate. Nowhere is this more evident than in the old-line industries (i.e. commodities, logistics [especially trucking], etc.).
The failure in innovation execution is not with intent, rather with culture and the train drivers.
How does your organization stand up? Ask yourself and of your company, the following questions:
Does your organization have and robustly support a culture of innovation? Without it, there is no consistency or sustainability to any innovations that happen to occur.
Does it allow for risk when pursuing initiatives? There is no such thing as an initiative without inherent risk. Where does your company “draw-the-line” when it comes to risk management in new and potential initiatives? Are the only initiatives allowed forward, the ones that have been vetted extensively in an effort to drive out all risk?
Does it punish risk takers when their initiatives fail? This is the Achilles heel for most companies. They are willing to allow people to pursue initiatives, but if it fails, so do the risk takers. Instead of learning from the mistakes and proceeding forward, the risk takers are duly punished and flogged (many times publicly) for daring to take the risk. Are these people or those around them likely to take any future risk?
Does it have senior level support? Any culture, whether it is one of innovation or anything else, is driven by senior management. If they are not buying into it, any innovation that happens will be despite the culture and not because of it. In any event, it will not be consistent and likely not sustainable. As an ancillary point, a culture of innovation driven by senior management also recognizes that the innovation is likely to originate from outside the executive suite. As such, they provide the impetus, framework, support and resources for it to germinate and flourish at all levels.
Does it aggressively identify and pursue innovators? The standard interviewing questions and assessments likely do not reliably identify innovators and those with innovative inclination and potential. And simply asking point-blank about a candidate’s innovative ability will either produce an “I want to appear like one” answer or simply not answer the question in a satisfactory way. If your company wants innovators, it all starts with identification and then aggressive pursuit. How does your company identify innovators?
The most effective advocacy results from engagement. The most effective engagement comes from being part of an organization that is constantly and sustainably innovating. If that’s not your company, then you should be asking: Why aren’t we innovating? What do we need to do to get there? Where do we find and how do we identify the innovators already on our team train and outside candidates?
Moe Glenner provides corporate entrepreneurial workshops and consulting to companies seeking greater innovation with both their processes and products. He can be reached at Moe@MoeGlenner.com and on Twitter: @MoeGlenner.