From Innovative Ideas to Innovation Culture: a Journey Towards Maturity

Cultural resistance within organizations is often one of the barriers that stand in the way of innovation, as it is a natural attitude to react against new things. How to turn that people's energy into an advantage to create meaningful innovations? We have been working to foster a culture and climate for innovation in many companies for more than 20 years. It is a recurrent theme in Imaginatik's program of events, and precisely one of the topics we are talking about in this Friday's innovation roundtable in Boston.

Culture is very persistent, and moving from ideas to viable concepts is very hard. Both are part of a journey in which each successful innovation effort empowers you to achieve the final goal: transform your organization's culture to create new structures that allow you to innovate sustainably and repeatedly. By working with different organizations we have observed that, when facing these progressive changes in process, climate, and culture, a series of transitions must be made to solve common roadblocks:

  • Changing internal politics to turn resistance into a fulcrum for transformation.
  • Overcoming “business as usual” to create new comfort zones and move away from the classic objection: “But we have always worked in this way”.
  • Defying hierarchical thinking to invert the social pyramid and allow innovators to thrive at every level of the company.

So, what does it take to avoid “cultural traps” and build an innovative organization? Again, from our experience, some concepts have proved to be successful:

Creating a new culture of work. It is necessary to understand that there is a core process of innovation: It is not a gift conceded to some talented people, but a skill that can be learnt and trained, and used consistently all over the company to create economic value. The first step for acting differently is to enable new conceptual scenarios which help build acceptance for a new culture of working that must be inherently collaborative, creative, and networked to overcome the dynamics of the internal politics.

Alignment of C-level and new connections. Investing lots of efforts in innovation with lack of results engenders a lack of belief. Setting a workable roadmap to increase innovation capabilities requires building an environment of trust, in which senior leaders’ involvement is crucial to create this climate and to open up new areas of innovation. New patterns of thinking and acting together must be created, in a gradual and “safe” way at the beginning, to break down old ways of executing. Then it will be possible to start doing thinks that are truly innovative, make a real impact, and beat the “business as usual” phenomena.

Building engagement. It is essential to make sure that everyone is contributing to the innovation process, making it more sustainable over time. Initiatives such as idea challenges can help break department divisions and hierarchical divisions, allowing all employees to participate in the innovative process and giving a voice to everyone. Over time, this can be adopted as an habitual practice of the company, rather than an isolated experience.

Creating an innovation culture is a journey over time, and Imaginatik has guided many organizations through it: We begin by defining the current level of innovation maturity of companies, towards facilitating the process of establishing, developing, embedding, and ultimately optimizing the organization’s innovation capabilities.

If you want to discuss how we can help your organization to start this process or are interested in our events dealing with the culture of innovation, don't hesitate to contact us here!

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A Foundation of Experience Spanning over 20 Years