Stop pretending your organization is innovative. Read this NOW!
Throughout history, people with new ideas–who think differently and try to change things–have always been called troublemakers. ~ Richelle Mead
I love this quote. I often hear in the business world the word innovation. Many companies strive to be innovative but ironically, the majority of companies are far from it. Why? Because like the quote suggests, innovation is about thinking differently and when an individual comes up with new and unique ideas that go against traditional thinking or organizational norms, 9 times out of 10 they are looked upon as being out of touch or worse yet a troublemaker. I realize that not every organization is this harsh but there are definitely different degrees of judgement. This is a society issue; conform to my thinking or be ostracized. As a result, being innovative is rhetoric for many companies. They talk the talk but don’t walk the talk. It’s in our human nature to want to standardize everyone around us for order. So it’s not a surprise that this happens in the business world where order and control is so important to reaching goals and achieving strategies.
The key to creating an innovative company
So how do we change this rhetoric? We do this by creating an organizational culture that supports innovation. Here are my 5 cultural behaviours you need to STOP doing so innovation is nurtured, not killed:
- Fear directed decision making– Fear stops us from embracing and moving forward with different ideas. It’s usually the fear of failure that is the true culprit. Yes, you will fail if you are trying to be innovative. It’s a given. Those who innovate don’t do it perfectly the first time around. Thomas Edison failed with creating the light bulb 1000 times before he got it right. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations punish employees for failure instead of realizing it’s a critical step in innovation.
- Ego-centric leadership– Some leaders of organizations lead via their egos and easily kill innovative ideas by focusing on “how will this idea reflect on me”. Leaders who lead this way are fearful of what others think of them and stop great ideas for fear of how it impacts them and their career. If you’re going to be an innovative organization you need to take risks and focus on how the innovative idea will benefit the organization, and not yourself.
- Ignore new employee ideas– Lots of organization have a very specific standard way they operate and think. If anyone challenges it, like a new employee because they see things in a different light, we stomp on their idea/observation and judge, “what do they know”. True, they haven’t worked there that long but that is why they need to be heard. They truly have a fresh set of eyes and you want to take advantage of this before they get immersed in the organizational culture and norms and stop seeing things in a refreshing way..
- Don’t allow tape on the meeting room wall– What does this have to do with innovation….lots. In order to be innovative you need to brainstorm. I’ve been in organizations where I was told I wasn’t allowed to tape paper on the meeting rooms walls, a technique I use to create new ideas. The fear was the tape would wreck the paint. This stupefies me because in order to get innovative ideas we need to brainstorm. In order to brainstorm, we need to be in a creative mode and to do this we need to be free to doodle, scribble and to stand and walk around. If you have a rule in your organization that you’re not allowed to tape things on the wall, I promise you’re NOT an innovative company.
- Internal politics is alive and well– For employees to come up with innovative ideas, they need to feel protected and safe in their work environment. If your culture is very political, this will kill innovation because people must be very calculating and editing everything they say and do. You can’t come up with innovative ideas if you feel like you need to watch your back all the time.
Innovation is what drives business progress. This is why businesses talk about innovation all the time. So take an honest look at your organization. Do you give innovation lip service or do you really walk the talk? Innovation is a good thing, it allows us to be better. So start creating a culture in your organization that actually supports and promotes innovation. That next zany idea (taped to the wall) just might be the block buster idea you were hoping for.