Make Innovation Everybody's Business

A Simple Recipe to Building a Culture of Innovation

Here’s how Colgate, Airbnb and Open Table built their foundations in innovation culture.

84% of global executives believe that innovation is an integral role to the success of a company. However, this number is overshadowed by the fact that nearly 94% of these innovation leaders are not satisfied with their company’s performance. What this survey conducted by McKinsey demonstrates is the inherent difficulty on how one should approach innovation in a business setting. If you have struggled to bring innovation to your company, you’re not alone. Given the complexities of innovation, we have a few simple “ingredients” that can jump start your company’s innovation culture, regardless of size.

Provide the direction, but not the route.

More often than not, companies will throw out vague goals or directions for their employees to achieve. As we all know very well, without a clear sensCompasse of direction, even the brightest individuals will have a hard time find their path to successful innovation. The key behind this “ingredient” is to provide a boundaries that helps keep ideas contained but not inhibit them. In other words: Set the direction. You want everyone to reach their destination, but take their own route. This allows for thoughts, inspiration and ideas to be gathered.

  • First, create a clear goal in mind on how your company would like to shape the market or the world.
  • Provide time for people to let their minds run free. We all know that ideas are not an on demand system. We all need time for our ideas to develop and ripen. So assign time in your work dedicated for your employees to be engaged in their ideas.

It’s awards season!

Ideas come in all shapes and sizes. In order to keep everyone engaged and involved in the innovation process it is important to recognize those achievements. A powerful tool you could use to harness an innovative culture is providing recognition. You don’t need to create a large budget solely for award people for their ideas. Instead, find simple ways to reward their engagement and ideas. 

A great example of this is Colgate-Palmolive. The company’s Global Research & Development group implemented a “recognition economy”. In this economy, all staff members were given symbolic wooden coins, where they would pass the wooden coins to the most deserving colleagues at meetings or when they were away at lunch.

Airbnb has done something similar but within their own company social network platform. Instead of wooden coins, employees can send “appreciations” for coming up with a great idea. But it doesn’t stop there. These appreciations are shown on monitors around the office so that the entire company is aware of the recognition.  

These companies have successfully implemented low to free cost recognition programs that help cultivate an innovation centric culture.

Discover the meaning behind the innovation.

Once you’ve gathered your ideas… what do you do next? The hardest part with innovation is trying to exchange it for real life impact. To do this, we need to find the proper metrics to measure your ideas. This will require some evaluation of your company goals that you set forth in step one. 

  • OpenTable strived to become a dominant player in restaurant reservation service. In order for them to do so, they focused on improving two simple metrics. The first was to increase the number of users on their platform. Then to increase the number of restaurants in their portfolio. This allowed them to keep track of their innovations were on par with the goals at hand.

Of course, everyone company has its own distinctive culture. Therefore the innovation culture you will foster will be vastly different to the company next door. However, we do hope that with this simple recipe you will be able to jump start innovation at your company and hopefully create your own recipe from ours.

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