Christopher salem's blog

How to Create a Culture of Innovation

Organizations of all types desire to obtain results.  What distinguishes those that excel consistently over others is how they create a culture of innovation.  Organizations that demonstrate inadequate performance are not structured properly and do not have reward incentive programs built to build the right culture toward growth.   The recipe for sustainable success with peak performance is when strategies, structure, business processes, resources, technologies, and reward programs operate in synchronization in harmonious fashion.

Conscious or transparent leaders know how to shape the culture of their organizations to drive innovation and make it sustainable.  They can see how current values, habits, and subtle behaviors between leadership and employees can limit performance.  This equates to why many organizations fail to truly relate to one another.  The trick is to have interaction with your organization’s clear and concise strategies with the ways people actually relate to one another and to the organization.

It is most important that organizations build a culture of innovation from transparency.  It has to be sincere and show true commitment to their people first in order to make impact on the industry it serves.  Corporate mission & vision statements have to be unique and clearly convey the impact it will have on others in their industry.  Customers see true value not only to solutions that come from the heart but also based on the dedication of the people that serve them.  Companies have to ask themselves how they will change the world to truly impact others.  It starts with transparency and commitment to your people.  This is why companies like Apple thrive consistently.

Innovation does not happen overnight.  It takes time.  Many companies get consumed with short term targets and reacting to managing problems rather than implementing solutions that can be sustainable when being proactive.  The key is to give up control when pressure is greatest to build a culture of innovation.  It is imperative companies give up some time to employees to just come up with new ideas and experiment with them.  Provide just enough structure and support to help employees address uncertainty and tap into the creative process without constraining it.  Companies such as Intuit use time as a reward because they believe it’s the biggest motivator of corporate intrapreneurs. Intuit gives its best business innovators three months of “unstructured” time that can be used in one big chunk or spread out over six months for part-time exploration of new opportunities. Time is money but using it wisely creates a major incentive to get more accomplished long term.

It is said that many great products and services never get off the ground because the challenge of turning them into something real with impact.  This comes down to measuring impact or results that are truly meaningful.  The first step is to figure out what to measure.  OpenTable, the restaurant reservation service, focused on two metrics that allowed it to become the dominant player: growing the numbers of restaurants in its network and increasing the number of consumers making reservations. Other metric to consider is the percentage of employees who have been trained and provided tools for innovation.  Another is the percentage of time dedicated to discovering, prototyping, and testing new products and services.

A culture of innovation is not sustainable unless employees are dedicated and committed to the mission and vision of the company.  Reward programs should be ongoing and do not have to be extravagate in terms of rewards. The use of informal acknowledgements that is ongoing to those that perform and come up with winning ideas show to work long term to make this process more sustainable.  It is a process that empowers others to perform at their highest levels and encourages innovation among everyone.

It is important to note again that every organization is different.  Companies have to be strategic with cultivating a unique approach.  Companies must align their values with their specific goals.  An ongoing reward system providing continuous informal acknowledgment where credit is due is imperative to those employees whose roles and dynamics influence the very innovation culture you’re trying to cultivate.

To your health & prosperity,

Christopher Salem

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