In today’s fast-paced, highly competitive business environment, creating a culture of innovation is not merely a ‘nice to have’ – it is an essential tool in generating success. Such a culture is particularly pertinent when it comes to reaping the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT), because IoT deployments are fundamentally exercises in digital transformation. IoT implementations touch people and processes across the organisation – a culture of innovation is essential to ensure that those touchpoints are transformative in positive ways, rather than leading to bottlenecks and stagnation.
But actually putting a culture of innovation into practice is not necessarily straightforward. Here are our top tips for fostering one in your organisation.
Learn from past mistakes and accept – even encourage - failure
Innovative cultures may be forward-looking – but they also look backwards, and learn from what went wrong in the past. Past mistakes – whether wholescale errors or simply failures to fully exploit particular areas or markets – can be the foundations for truly informed and intelligent innovation in the future.
Make regular reflection and evaluation sessions a core part of your business processes. Encourage all staff, at all levels, to discuss mistakes openly and listen to each other – view them as an opportunity to improve, not to attack.
This is all about creating an environment where failure is acceptable. Failure is a natural side effect of experimentation and invention, and so if failure isn’t part of your business’s culture, it’s likely that innovation isn’t either. Failing should be absolutely acceptable – being complacent about failure is the problem.
Empower your employees to experiment
Exciting ideas can come from anywhere within your business, and indeed, as digital transformation and the IoT unlock new opportunities to capture data and automate throughout all corners of your organisation, so you should look to all corners for possible innovation.
The trick is to move experimentation from theory to practice – to shift your employees from just talking about possible ideas, to putting them into action. This doesn’t need to mean prototyping absolutely everything – but it does mean creating time in employees’ calendars – and actions on their development plans – for tangible action on their ideas.
It also means enabling every employee, no matter how junior, to feel that they have a degree of autonomy over how they work and how they contribute ideas to the organisation. This can seem scary, particularly in highly structured environments, but it doesn’t need to happen without measurements and accountability. It’s not about telling staff they are free to do whatever they want, whenever they want – it’s about encouraging staff to make an independent contribution, and opening up the space for that contribution to look different to how you might have expected. This might involve thinking carefully about incentives, for example.
Consider carefully how to measure innovation
Any strategic-thinking organisation knows how to measure its success – but measuring ideas and innovation can seem rather trickier. You’ll probably want to start with key customer and financial metrics – essentially, tracking the hard numbers in relation to new products or services – but you can measure more creatively than this too.
Look, for example, at metrics like strategic partnerships, sentiment in the marketplace or amongst your competitors, and data on the time your organisation has to spend on experimentation and new product development. Look, also, at ways of embedding training and education on innovation within your workforce, and how you can track improvements in that knowledge over time. These are all ways of getting a more multifaceted handle on just how innovative your business culture is – and how it is improving.
Want more support in creating a culture of innovation? Get in touch with us today.