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Innovation culture - Enabler or killer for innovation

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast "- nothing hits the relevance of innovation culture better than Peter F. Drucker's legendary slogan. If an organization does not have a positive innovation culture, no strategy for new innovations will work. The best idea will fail. Innovation success stands and falls with culture.

For many, the term

What is corporate culture and what is the challenge?

For many people, the term "culture" is not tangible, and so is culture itself. Because the culture of a company is not or only partially visible. It encompasses all values, attitudes and standards that influence and shape the actions of employees. Culture can only be changed in the long term and with a lot of continuity and perseverance. And so culture develops itself, even if you don't want it to.

Because of these circumstances, it is therefore important that managers actively devote themselves to cultural work and become aware of it,

  • which culture the company actually has (and not just wants to have),
  • the impact of your own management style, and
  • how to actively develop the culture.What is a positive innovation culture?

Culture is extremely important for innovation, because innovation requires a very special attitude on the part of employees:

Recognition and promotion of new and changes.
And all this besides the actual job in day-to-day business.

Even though all people are enthusiastic about new innovations, they find it hardest to change themselves. This resistance to change lies in the nature of people and that is why cultural work is so important for the success of innovation.


Innovation culture is leadership responsibility

It is the responsibility of all managers from top to bottom to create the basis for creating framework conditions where

  • is actively searched for.
  • new is welcome.
  • new is implemented.

In addition, there are various elements and values that promote a culture of innovation, e. g. fault tolerance, risk appetite, trust, heterogeneity, learning, freedom, communication. Read more about this in the article "Creating a positive culture of innovation: how does it work?".

The most prominent innovation culture is the "Silicon Valley mentality", where everyone is hungry for innovation. Extreme curiosity, optimism and openness welcome every idea, no matter how crazy, and set all the levers in motion to achieve success as quickly as possible.

How an executive can promote the culture of innovation?

How can a manager approach the topic of innovation culture? It is actually quite simple, namely to create the right framework conditions and impetus for employees to be able to make a positive contribution to the success of their company.

  • Can.
  • May.
  • Want.

The model around skills, willingness and permission comes from motivational leadership and encompasses the external and internal influencing and condition factors that influence the actions of employees. Wanting is an internal influence factor, being allowed to be an external influence and being able to be both an internal influence in relation to the individual and an external influence in relation to the environment.

However, an executive can influence all three factors to increase performance and direct it in the right direction.

"Ability" - Encouraging ability

In terms of skill, it describes the skills an employee needs to be innovative. This includes creativity, analytical skills, expertise, experience, etc.

On the basis of the innovation goals, a manager must define which skills and abilities the employees need in order to achieve them. These measures can be grouped together to promote innovation and include, for example

  • Creativity training,
  • innovation process training, or
  • Trend and future workshops.

Willingness "- promoting readiness

Personal motives and goals influence the desire. This motivation and the will to innovate can be influenced by various measures and circumstances:

  • Raise awareness of the importance of innovation.
  • Motivation and incentives, e. g. part of personal goals, bonuses, but also intangible incentives such as career prospects, varied jobs, praise, etc.
  • Recognition and praise of innovation contributions.
  • Invitation and "motivation" for innovation.
  • Communication and training to raise awareness of the importance of innovation.
  • Identification with innovation strategies and goals.
  • Talking about innovation - Innovation on the agenda.

Wanting is particularly important for innovations, because innovation thrives on the initiative of employees who recognize and seize new opportunities.

May - promoting opportunities

These possibilities are explicit and implicit rules and standards that define the scope for decision-making and action.

It doesn't help if employees are motivated and have ideas, if they can't drive them forward because the environment is blocked. It also requires "permission". This is supported by various measures and conditions:

  • Working conditions and climate
  • freedoms
  • Competence and responsibility
  • Rules and Hierarchies
  • Fast and efficient communication
  • Functioning innovation processes
  • Promotion of self-initiative
  • Availability of resources
  • Quick and effective decision-making structures
  • Management support and commitment
  • Support at the interfaces

This shows whether innovation is actually wanted by management and the organization or whether it is just lip service. The "may" includes all supportive framework conditions that transform the potentials of motivated employees into ideas and encourage success.

Innovation requires intrapreneurship, where employees and entrepreneurs act in the company. Freedom, initiative and entrepreneurial action are the success factors that managers must promote through "may".

Expansion by must, should & do

Lukas Rütten has expanded the skills-wanted-drawing model and further developed it into a systemic innovation management system, where the focus is on the employees. The six fields of action to promote the creativity of employees and innovation are

  • Must = pressure to innovate, i. e. the pressure to innovate in order to survive as an organisation.
  • May = room for innovation.
  • Should = innovation structure, e. g. team structures, innovation processes, methods.
  • Ability = Innovation competence.
  • Want = willingness to innovate.
  • Make = innovation success - if all five fields of action are "made".

Innovation is a cultural and leadership theme

Innovation is a mentality, innovation cannot be commanded. Innovation is a cultural and leadership theme. Employees can only develop their innovation potential and jointly develop successful innovations for the benefit of the company if all basic conditions work together in a positive way.

The most ingenious innovation processes and the most modern innovation methods will have no effect unless there is commitment, facilitation, support and encouragement from management.

It is "only" in the hands of the management team to have a positive influence on these framework conditions and to create an innovation culture in which innovations flourish on their own.

It is only with a distinctive culture of innovation that you can win innovation leadership. And it is precisely these that CEOs want to take advantage of for themselves and their company, which is why culture design must be at the top of the CEO's agenda. Anything else would be a waste of resources.

Conclusion: Innovation culture - Enabler or killer for innovation

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast. Innovation culture is the biggest challenge in innovation management, but also the strongest and most effective lever. A positive innovation culture, where creativity, ideas and innovation success for all are at the top of the agenda, makes innovation a self-starter. On the other hand, a culture hostile to innovation has the power to kill the best idea.

In order to shape the culture of innovation, the focus must be on

  • Ability - promoting the innovation competence of employees,
  • Will - will and motivation for innovation and innovation
  • May - environment and framework conditions for innovations be laid down.

And the responsibility is clear: the entire management.

We would be delighted to support you with the next steps towards a positive culture of innovation.  

Tanja Eschberger-Friedl

With her clear and focused way of working, Tanja supports you with strategic innovation management and the successful development of product, process, and market innovations. Tanja always keeps an eye on the essentials. Holistic solutions are her aim. She applies her specialist knowledge as a scrum master and agility coach to achieve this.

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