To be innovative, a business must first have a clear vision. Without a vision, it’s impossible to know what you’re striving for, and you will stifle creativity. Once you have a vision, you need to build a team of people who are passionate about achieving it. This team will be the engine that drives innovation. They need to be open-minded, creative thinkers willing to take risks. And they need to work together collaboratively, with a spirit of mutual respect. Finally, it would help if you created an environment that supports innovation, giving people the freedom to experiment and fail. It also means providing the resources they need to be successful. When these elements come together, businesses can achieve true innovation.
It’s easy enough for any business owner to say, ‘I want my business to be more innovative,’ but what does that look like? The same set of traits has popped up time and again. And while these characteristics vary by business, sector, and location, they are more prevalent than you might imagine.
Strong leadership is critical for innovation because a culture of innovation is built on trust. Leaders need to trust their teams to take risks and experiment. They also need to give constructive feedback that will help their team members learn and grow. Leaders who are open to new ideas and willing to take risks themselves set the tone for an innovative culture.
An innovative culture is also built on a foundation of respect. Everyone needs to feel respected and valued, regardless of their position in the company. This respect needs to extend to all aspects of the business, from how employees are treated to the way customers are treated. When people feel respected, they’re more likely to take risks and try new things.
With that, let’s look at the ten most important characteristics of a culture of innovation:
Active opportunity management
To be successful, businesses must be proactive in pursuing new opportunities. However, this can only happen if there is a culture of innovation. Active opportunity management should be a part of every leadership meeting and conversation and during business and strategic planning; this will ensure that new opportunities are identified, prioritised, and resourced on an ongoing basis. By taking this proactive approach, companies can stay ahead of the competition and position themselves for success.
Adequate funding of ideas
Ideas are the lifeblood of any organisation, yet they frequently go undeveloped and unfunded. New ideas need money to be piloted and scaled, but they die in PowerPoint all too often due to a lack of financing. Organisations need to set aside adequate funding for new ideas at the beginning of the year to prevent this. Then, when an innovative idea comes along, there will be money available to support its development. Furthermore, this culture of innovation will encourage more employees to generate new ideas, leading to even more successes down the road.
Leadership role modelling
Leaders play an essential role in setting the culture of innovation within an organisation. Their actions and behaviours can either encourage or discourage new ideas. For example, when leaders are open-minded and take the time to listen to others, they create an environment where fresh thinking is welcomed. On the other hand, when leaders are dismissive or make hasty decisions, their message is that innovation is not valued, especially from senior leadership.
To foster a culture of innovation, leaders must be willing to model behaviours that support new ideas. This means being open to change, taking risks, and valuing the input of others. Only then will innovation flourish.
Stretch goals and a higher purpose
Goals that require a culture of innovation to achieve are, by definition, stretch goals. And when these goals are connected to a higher emotional purpose or cause, they become even more motivating. This is because individuals and teams are not only challenged to think differently but also to push beyond what has always been done. As a result, they can achieve objectives that they initially thought were impossible.
What’s more, the satisfaction that comes from reaching these goals is even more remarkable when they are connected to a higher purpose. So, if you’re looking to achieve something truly extraordinary, don’t be afraid to set stretch goals that are connected to a cause you care about. You may surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.
It’s often said that the best ideas come from outside the box. And while that may be true, it’s also important to consider what’s going on inside the box. The external world is a rich source of inspiration and provocation for new ideas. By forging partnerships with a diverse range of organisations and individuals, we can bring in fresh perspectives and insights that can help us see things in new ways. This, in turn, fuels our culture of innovation and allows us to create new and better solutions to the challenges we face. So next time you’re looking for some innovative ideas, don’t forget to look outside—and inside—the box.
This box doesn’t need to emulate the innovation labs of Silicon Valley or have a foosball table in the break room. While those may be nice perks, they are not the key ingredients for fostering innovation.
The method in the madness
There is much talk about the need for creativity and innovation in today’s business world. But what does that mean? It means having the ability to think expansively, without limits, and combine that with intelligent analysis and rigour. It’s about being able to see the world as your oyster and believing that anything is possible. I like to call sniper-like creativity: being able to focus on a target and take it down with precision and accuracy.
Of course, this kind of thinking doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it requires a culture of innovation where people are encouraged to think outside the box. But suppose you can create that culture and encourage people to think divergently. In that case, you will be well on your way to fostering creativity and innovation in your organisation. Individuals must have a firm grasp on when and how to give themselves permission to cross boundaries and go renegade in their thinking and attitude - as well as when not to.
Gone are the days when people worked in silos and only interacted with those at the same level. Now, it’s all about working in small groups with different people. This is how things get done. By putting aside stations and silos, we can share a common issue and come up with solutions together. This type of collaboration unlocks everyone involved’s superior thinking, energy, and creativity. Diversity becomes a genuine advantage versus just a tick in the box. So, up-down-left-right, let’s do this!
There’s no shortage of stories when it comes to innovation. Walking down the street, you can find people from all walks of life who will eagerly tell you about the innovative things they’ve done recently. Whether it’s a new product they’ve developed or a new way of doing things, there’s always something worth talking about. And it’s not just products that drive the culture of innovation; it’s also the stories that are told and retold about these accomplishments. These stories become recognition in themselves, and people strive to do something worthy of becoming part of the narrative. In a world where innovation is everywhere, stories are one of the most powerful currencies.
A culture of innovation cannot exist without humility. People need to be able to see the cracks and acknowledge what needs to be made better. It’s seen as ok to showcase failure. Wins are shared, not grabbed, and triumphs feel balanced. Without humility, collaboration and togetherness are challenging. With humility comes a sense of togetherness, making innovation and stretches accessible. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and move forward with the knowledge that we’re not perfect - but we’re trying. And that’s worth something.
Room for crazies
An innovation culture starts with creating an environment where people feel comfortable being honest about their weekend plans, sharing scary ideas, and wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Yes, it’s ok to stand out from the crowd and be yourself. But it’s also important to remember that tolerance and empathy are critical competencies in this environment.
After all, if you want to stretch the boundaries with your ideas, you have to be open to pushing the boundaries with your talent. So next time you’re feeling judged, take a deep breath and remind yourself that we’re all in this crazy world together.
Having diverse perspectives, a flat organisation, and a focus on customer needs are just a few attributes that define a culture of innovation.
Innovative cultures in small and large companies have a very positive effect on the innovation process. Such a culture is not based on one’s ideas or, frankly, less fun behaviours. Instead, it is based on a set of values and attitudes embraced by the organisation, supported by great leaders, executed with rigorous discipline, and celebrated in everyday interactions. These innovation cultures are difficult to build, but the payoffs are significant and worth the effort.