Some of the most pioneering and forward-thinking organizations share the same four cultural values that help drive their success — innovative thinking, autonomy and proactivity, market awareness, and risk.
After reviewing every research study he could find, strategy and innovation expert Kaihan Krippendorff discovered a statistically significant correlation between a workplace’s culture and their level of innovation, recently writing about for Fast Company.
If you want to elevate innovation in your organization, Kaihan, writes, look for these essential elements:
1. Celebrate Innovative Thinking
“Your people are already innovators,” Kaihan writes. They may simple be waiting for their innovativeness to be recognized and appreciated. Kaihan recommends that leaders ask themselves the following questions to determine if they have the right mindset when it comes to creative thinking:
- How does your organization reward employees for pursuing uncommon solutions?
- What practices (formal or informal) does your organization have to recognize and celebrate new ideas?
In terms of employees, he recommends looking for organizations that publicly celebrate their employees innovations. For example, Macmillan Publishers hosted an Innovation Tournament to promote and celebrate internal innovations. The winners not only received recognition but also a financial reward.
2. Empower People to Proactively Act with Autonomy
“The most innovative organizations give employees room and power to make decision, propel ideas, and handle challenges without going through a long, formal approval process,” Kaihan writes.
A two-year study showed that people want to do more at work than simply be a jobholder. They want to be difference-makers and have the flexibility to play big. Kaihan recommends leaders ask the following questions to evaluate their organization’s level of proactivity and autonomy:
- In your organization, where is the bureaucratic red tape that might prevent employees from taking action to move ideas forward?
- Do your people have the time, resources, and permission to act on creative decisions with speed and agility? What resources would make them more proactive?
3. Encourage Market Awareness
Research-informed innovations based on insights gathered about customers, competition, and competitive dynamics tend to outperform those that are internally driven without external input. “The most innovative companies,” Kaihan writes, “empower employees to understanding their market.” Whether it’s all new hires spending training in customer service and/or care to encouraging employees to sit on boards outside of their industry to gain new perspective.
Kaihan recommends leaders answer the following questions to inspire insights into their marketplace:
- What routines and training exercises enable employees to deeply understand the customer experience? Do training exercises reflect the unique perspectives of your most valued customers?
- Where does innovation start in your organization—does it begin on the product side or the customer side? To what extent does leadership interact with and hear input from customer-facing employees?
4. Encourage Calculated Risk-Taking
Build in risk awareness practices to increase your organization’s comfort with risk. Often, Kaihan writes, internal innovators are more conservative with the risks they take because they are aware that they are putting corporate profit at risk. However, the more comfortable an organization is with the risk, the higher probability they have to be successful in the face of challenges or obstacles.
Kaihan recommends leaders ask the following questions to evaluate their organization comfort with risk:
- How does your organization communicate and take on real or potential risks
- What capabilities could you begin building to prepare you for a risk scenario?
- What incentives might you develop (or punishments could you remove) to change the organization’s mindset around failure?
Kaihan Krippendorff is one of the most in-demand business speakers in the world. Speaking to innovation, disruption, agility, leadership, and more, he shows organizations and individuals how to thrive in today’s era of fast-paced, disruptive technological change.
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