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10 ways to create a culture of innovation

The corporate culture embraces the written and unwritten values, norms and attitudes in an organization that influence the way employees think and act. And an innovation culture is part of the corporate culture and determines how much innovation is supported and promoted by management and employees.

Innovation culture influences the way employees think and act

Creating a positive culture of innovation is essential as it forms the framework for all innovation activities. If the culture is not positive, it can hinder innovation, even if the idea and the innovation team are still perfect. It is thus a decisive factor in the success of innovation.

How to Create a Culture of Innovation: 10 Effective Strategies

In order to create a positive innovation culture, one must

  • sensitize employees to innovation and its opportunities.
  • motivate and inspire employees to engage in innovation alongside their day-to-day business. Be it actively in the role of the innovator, but in which ideas and projects of others are supported.
  • Provide employees with the necessary information, tools and skills to enable them to innovate.
  • Provide employees with the necessary resources, structures and space to enable innovation.

Establishing the Foundation: Strategic Clarity in Creating an Innovation Culture

First of all, the most important thing is that it must be clearly defined which innovation strategy the company is pursuing. From this, we derive what is expected of the organization and what kind of innovation culture is required. The target innovation culture is thus defined, for example, which behavior is expected of managers and employees with regard to innovation. This act requires a clear management commitment.


10 simple strategies for cultivating a culture of innovation

First, seven simple ways to enhance the culture of innovation are presented. They are simple because they can be implemented without a great deal of resources or change in the organization. Above all, they require management commitment and the commitment of those responsible for innovation. Then they can be implemented without a few hurdles and have a very positive effect on the innovation culture.

  1. Communication of the innovation strategy
    The innovation strategy sets the direction and framework conditions. The expectations and goals regarding innovation should be clear to every employee. Therefore, a first important step is to communicate the innovation strategy across all functions and hierarchy levels, for example by means of an information campaign.
  2. Cascade workshops for active employee involvement
    The communication of the innovation strategy raises awareness, but is very one-sided. Even more important, however, is the dialogue with employees and their involvement.
    Through cascaded workshops on innovation across all functions and top-down through all hierarchy levels, the employees are picked up. Jointly, initiated by the manager, it is to be defined,
    • what innovation means for their field,
    • what role they play in the innovation process and
    • what they can contribute to the success of innovation.
    In the best case, this results in role models and action plans or influences the job descriptions.
  3. Innovation Crash Courses
    Everyone talks about innovation, but often employees can't explain what that means for the company and for them and what they can contribute. Being creative and innovative also requires information and skills. Here, broad-based crash courses on innovation are recommended, in terms of content and scope adapted to the needs of the employees. For example, the content and scope of a production worker's information needs are different from those of a group leader in marketing. Contents of the crash courses can be for example:
    • Definition of innovation
    • How to get ideas
    • How and where to submit an idea
    • Innovation process - what happens with an idea and what you can contribute yourself
    • Creativity techniques.
    The optimum length should be between one and three hours and reach and appeal to the widest possible audience.
  4. Innovation Days: Activating Creativity in Your Organization
    An annual Innovation Day can focus and activate attention on the topic of innovation. All employees should be able to participate. Possible focal points and contents can be the following:
    • Presentation of the latest innovations
    • Word of the Executive Board on Innovation
    • Open day in the innovation department
    • Hackathons and idea workshops
    • Barcamps on innovation topics
    • Information events on innovation, e. g. innovation process, innovation methods
    • Awards ceremony for innovation.
    The Innovation Day can also take place online. Above all, it is recommended for internationally active companies because it is not possible to bring all employees together in one place. Whether offline or online, the visibility of top management is a very important success factor.
  5. Creativity workshops
    In addition to providing information and raising awareness of innovation, it is recommended that employees be directly involved in the innovation process in the form of creativity workshops. Teams working together across all functions work on innovation questions and develop new ideas and solutions. If the workshops are well moderated and the topics are exciting, an immense attraction will be created and people will be inspired and mobilized for innovation. Of course, it is also very important that the ideas don't end up in a drawer, but rather have an effect, otherwise every commitment will be lost.
  6. Pitching contests
    In the form of a competition, all employees are asked to develop ideas. They can then be piped in front of the management. In addition, there is a pre-pitching training to get the best possible result.
    A jury consisting of management and internal as well as external experts nominates the top ideas. However, the winning ideas can also be selected by employee voting. The best ideas are then awarded and processed further.
    Pitching contests have very many advantages, such as visible management commitment, broad internal media effectiveness, ideas are discussed and developed, employee mobilization, fun and of course the development of excellent ideas.
  7. Innovation Awards
    Innovation contests, whether in the course of a pitching contest or whether the best innovation ideas, innovation teams or innovation projects are awarded, always have a very strong impact and attention. But above all not because of the objective prize, but because of the public recognition that the employees receive from the company. In addition, prizes and awards mobilize other employees and encourage them to think about innovations.

    And 3 further possibilities for a positive innovation culture

    These three options are very effective, but rather demanding and difficult because they require significant change and change in the organization. They can only be implemented with full commitment across all levels and require additional resources.
  8. Corporate venturing
    Based on the pitching contests or within the scope of an idea management, every employee can contribute his business idea to the company. In the course of corporate venturing, employees receive budget in the form of money and time and support from management and experts, enabling them to pursue their business idea within the company.
    If the business plan developed in the first step is released, the employees are removed from their departments and can set up their company for the company.
  9. Working time for innovation
    3M and Google are among the most innovative companies and are known for the fact that every employee spends around 20 percent of his or her working time on innovation and working on his or her own ideas.
    This measure is very effective, on the one hand, on the culture of innovation, because it demonstrates impressively from above how important innovation is for the company and, on the other hand, it mobilizes an enormous potential for innovation.
  10. Innovation Labs
    Innovation Labs are outsourced innovation forges. They are decoupled from day-to-day business. As a result, the resources dedicated to innovation are not consumed by day-to-day business, and the usual obstacles and barriers to thinking are removed by distance under the motto "everything is possible and permitted".
    Innovation Labs can be organizational innovation units, but also a physical place where everyone can go, use the infrastructure and develop their creativity. Creative rooms, tools such as 3D printers and workshops are available for the development of ideas and prototypes.

Conclusion: 10 practical measures to establish a culture of innovation

There are many ways to fine-tune the culture of innovation and make it positive. This does not always require immense budgets and well-thought-out five-year plans with hundreds of measures. You can also start small, harvest the first "Low-Hanging-Fruits" and build on it.


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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