Culture of Innovation

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Innovation seems to be a key driver for a lot of organizations.  Those that are in the private sector know that they need to innovate or perish.  Just take a look at all of the brick-and-mortar stores that have closed recently because they could not adapt to the new world.  In the public sector, governments understand that the citizens are more demanding due to what private organizations have given them.

But how do you create a culture of innovation?

Forrester recently came out with an article on “Four Critical Steps To Create A Culture Of Innovation“.  Their definition of culture is:

A set of shared values and beliefs that drive behavior

The article then talks about how a culture that is resistant to change will kill innovation.  Now there are a number of factors that will make a culture resistant to change but the one that I want to focus on, the one that should be familiar to anyone who has read virtually anything that I have written, is this one: a fear of failure and a lack of support.

A culture is resistant to change if the people within that culture feel scared to fail and that if they do fail there will be no support from executives.  As a result there is a fear to even try to be innovative.  Where is the fear of failure most prevalent?  Government.

Governments around the world believe that if they do something, and it is a failure, they have “wasted” taxpayer money and they will be kicked out of power, kicked out of their position or, just generally, kicked.  Because of this fear governments have traditionally been laggards in technology adoption.  They have been laggards when coming to grips with cultural changes from their citizens.  People change so much faster than the government that the government can even be a cycle or two behind their citizens.

So what do we do?

The Forrester article, once again, has a number of suggestions, four specific suggestions, but the key for me is something outside of the four suggestions:

An innovation culture requires a governance structure that nurtures and reinforces the four groups of activities discussed above.

A “governance structure that nurtures” a culture of innovation.  Here is a suggestion from me:  if you are currently experiencing a problem with innovation then change the governance structure.  Don’t create extend or expand your existing governance because it is obviously not working.  Make a change.  A real change.

The idea that “it worked before, it’ll work again” is completely at odds with the idea that you aren’t innovating.  If you are not innovating in your current structure, don’t propagate that structure.  And if you don’t know if you are innovating … then you aren’t.

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