A thought that has been on my mind for a while now is that who should innovate in medium / large organisations? Should it be an Innovation leader or an innovation team or a product development team or the leadership? Coming from a technology background, I find a plethora of opinions on this topic. Having been involved in the field for a number of years now, I have been able to test my own hypothesis around this question and can say that everyone in the organisation, from recruiters to developers to accountants to the CxOs should innovate! Let me tell you why.
Peter Drucker, a legendary management consultant, author and educator, said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Culture can be defined as "the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time". Just like any country's unique culture, an organisation can have its own culture as well. The reason why it is important to understand the role of culture is because it is critical in -not just triggering innovations but also in "sustaining" an innovative behavior. Fact of the matter is that sustaining an innovative behavior does not happen simply by asking people to innovate. To achieve that, one must develop a culture that is conducive to innovative and creative thinking.
Although it is possible to develop a conducive culture for innovation but it is easier said than done. It takes time and commitment especially depending upon the size and type of the organisation. Nevertheless, this could be achieved by introducing cultural development mechanisms that would encourage people to try out news ideas. The important thing is that such mechanisms need to be sustainable as well to constantly reinforce the message.
I have seen organisations trying to boost innovative mindsets by arranging competitions, highlighting innovators and giving out rewards but that would rarely translate into a long term effect. The real challenge is to reduce (or even eliminate) the difference between "normal work" and "innovation". Creativity and innovative mind-set will thrive and prevail in an environment where innovation is a key value, where out-of-the-box thinking is appreciated and where innovation is part of everyone's job. The Innovation leaders' responsibilities could include developing and introducing such mechanisms to the organisation that would encourage such a mind-set on a constant basis.
A sustainable innovative organisation is an entity where innovation is so embedded in daily work life that it is accepted as being natural in even the most mundane and routine jobs. When people start talking about trying new ideas with their colleagues during normal work hours and coffee breaks, you know a change is taking place. In such an ecosystem, new colleagues feel inspired and innovation becomes a part of the culture. Culture, thereby itself becomes the enabler for a self-sustaining innovative organisation.