Problem solving and Innovation is a Culture

Over the last few years, there have been a number of initiatives to push organizations towards better innovation.  I have generally found three types of organizations when it comes to an attitude of innovation.

First are those that have an innovative culture.  These include the 20% time firms that enable employees to spend 20% of their time working on personal initiatives that favor the firm.  Others in this category seek to generate a certain amount of profit from new products or services each year.  Not-for-profit organizations in this category constantly seek new ways to deliver the effect they want to achieve. 

The second group are those organizations that have no bone of innovation.  They are the status quo champions.  They are found in all sectors of society and, if not artificially supported or holding a monopoly position, would fail.

The third group are those that want to start some type of innovation but are presently not innovative and perhaps do not know what to do to become innovative.  These are the organizations that are on the fence between the other two—they could teeter either way but need a push.

Any attempt to create innovation is good.  The key to making it stick and advancing the organization is through sustained effort.  Sustained effort is not a one shot deal.  It is a continuous effort.  Said effort requires buy-in.  The more buy-in there is, the more innovation will flourish. 

In an ideal situation, innovation comes from a top down and bottom up approach concurrently that is imbued into the culture of the organization.  One of the reasons highly innovative organizations are so innovative is because of the culture that supports and cultivates innovation while distaining the status quo.  So how do we do that?  Here are a few tips to help encourage sustained innovation:

  1. There are often a lot of people in an organization that have innovative ideas that just need the chance to try them.  Creating an enabling environment for these folks is needed.  An enabling environment means eliminating the fear of repercussions from failure and delegating authority and responsibility to lower levels.
  2. Once the staff are enabled to do something innovative, champion what they have done to the rest of the organization.
  3. Understand what it means to be innovative.  Innovation is not about technology but about a mindset.  It isn’t about buzzwords and fancy, easy to brief diagrams, it is about action.  That action may be centered on thinking differently.

Innovation comes from sustained effort and perseverance with support from the organization.  A supportive and encouraging environment will enable people to try things and find success, thus developing an innovative culture.