Driving Innovation Through Your Company Culture

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According to the Human Capital Institute (HCI), by focusing on your company culture you can improve financial growth and performance by at least 14-17%. By creating a culture of innovation, you put your business in a position where it consistently reinvents itself and sets itself up for success similar to Apple, 3M and General Electric. Building an innovative culture is more than just putting the right metrics into place, just like with any building it starts from the foundation. And from the foundation you continue to build brick by brick.

Foundation for an Innovative Culture

Sloan Review cites that the right foundation for any culture that drives innovation rests on resources, processes, values, behavior, environment and success.

Values – Values are one of the core drivers behind decision making for any business. Contrary to what many managers believe, it’s not what they say that drives values, it’s their actions, their spending behavior, and how they talk to their coworkers and employees that build the values within a company.

Behaviors – Building an innovative culture takes the right mentality. Understanding when it’s time to, and to actually start discontinuing products or services in favor of newer and better ones drives a culture where employees are never afraid to try and create a new way too solve problems. Google, officially killed off their Orkut social network service, which they had invested million into. It was clear a long time ago that Google Plus was the clear winner in their social network race, but they stayed hungry and were satisfied. Innovation can also be driven a a leaders ability to describe a vivid future of the company. Think about Steve Jobs at Apple. The way he told stories to his company and motivated his employees directly led to an innovative culture.

Environment – An innovative environment encourages employees to take risks and fosters learning. By creating a better environment, you improve employee engagement and get them excited about their work.

Processes – Processes are how you manage all new ideas and projects. This is how you evaluate and sift through various projects for prototyping and prioritization. With the proper processes in place, you know can better manage all of the ideas and know where and when to take risks.

Resources – People, people, people. Hiring the right people and having the right ones in place has a powerful impact on your business’ environment and values. After all, your business is only as good as the people you hire.

Success – Success and rewards come in many different forms. Your business’ success can be measured through acknowledgement from outside companies calling you “innovative”, or internally to reinforce your values, behaviors and processes. How you reward success plays an important role in the culture you facilitate, as employees will see who’s getting rewarded and recognized by the company.

Building a Foundation Takes Time, What Can I do Now?

Building a foundation for an innovative culture takes a significant amount of investment and time. However, you can start building towards a better culture today. It’s important to note, no matter how eager you are for change, it may not happen immediately and you should take small steps to get to your goal. Focusing your efforts into a few areas and reaching success in those, will allow you to slowly build out the culture that you want. It’s like planting a seed. You start in just a few things and you continue to cultivate those, slowly transforming your business along the way.

One area that you can start with, is by making everyone’s opinion count. Create open communication with everyone at the company and conduct regular company assessments and surveys. Oftentimes, executives and managers have a different view of the company than the rest of employees. So, start asking and learn what your businesses real strengths are and where you need to improve. Opening this dialogue doesn’t just provide you with more insight into your business, it starts fostering a culture of open communication and trust.

Do you really want to start building an innovative culture? Start eliminating various barriers that your business has in place that are hindering change. The bigger an organization is, the more likely it is to have roadblocks that stifle innovation. Don’t be the business that fails to innovate due to bureaucracy and company politics. Do be the business that makes it easy to open new projects and provides support for these ideas. Your employees will feel empowered, and they’ll become more motivated to drive projects in your company.

”Don’t Stop Believing.” Yes, it’s a famous song by Journey, but it also reflects the mindset of leaders in innovative businesses. They don’t just believe in their products and services, they believe in the ability of their people to drive the company vision. Have faith in your employees, trust them to enact change in your business and trust them to spot new opportunities. By taking on this mindset, you’re already taking a step forward in transforming your business and pursing change.