7 Keys to Building a Culture of Innovation to Foster Sustainability

Posted by Eamonn Percy - The Percy Group

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c2794b04-7787-4f0d-a027-f25ce7d5ce49“Live in the sunshine.  Swim in the sea.  Drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 
You want your organization to thrive because it innovates, not innovate to survive.  By building a culture of innovation into the DNA of both your leadership and organization, you become more competitively positioned and create greater long-term value.  Leadership must be persistent, aggressive and focused while transforming the organization, so innovation becomes the way you are, not something you do.  

The 7 keys to building a culture of innovation to foster innovation are: Make innovation a strategic priority. Ensure you develop and implement a strategic plan to grow your organization, and make innovation a key priority within that plan.  Review and update the strategic plan regularly (no less than annually), ensure the organization is aligned with the achievement of the plan and consistently measure your progress against its goals. 

Communicate why innovation is a priority.  Communicate to all levels of your organization, so employees are aware of your plans, understand their roles, are committed to taking action and can define success.  Provide regular and meaningful updates on progress.  Be clear and transparent. Create a common language in order to achieve greater organizational cohesion. 
Implement a system that enables innovation. For an initiative to become successful, it will need a system to nurture, support and measure it. Pick a system that creates value, and can be scaled as you grow.  

Seek Inspiration and Ideas Elsewhere.  Get new and fresh ideas from other industries, cultures, companies, people, books, and events.  Go well outside your normal routine and circle to create a mind open to new and better opportunities.   Status Quo is not your friend.
Lead by example. Take the time to focus on becoming a better leader, so you can model the behaviors you expect of others, particularly during difficult or critical periods.  Nothing will make the cultural change more successful than this one act. Be persistent, be authentic and be open minded to opportunity.
Hire, train and build innovative talent. Make the recruitment and retention of key staff that support your innovation strategy a key priority.  Help your current staff to develop new skills and find the right way to contribute in a more innovative environment while hiring new staff that can fill the gaps and have the skills and abilities to drive innovation. Be consistently focused on market problems and customer needs.
Fail faster. Encourage more risk-taking and make failing for taking measured risks both acceptable and an opportunity.  Find ways to decrease the failure cycle time, which will drive new opportunities from the failures, and move the organization ahead faster. 

                Don’t innovate for the sake of it, rather use innovation as a core strategy to make your organization agile so it can encourage new ways of thinking, foster new technologies and attract the type of people that will ensure you remain a leader in sustainability.