Innovation as a culture

20 Aug

Why Innovation as a culture is important for your company ?

Adapt or Perish!!!!! Is the Rule of Innovation!!!

Companies need to innovate constantly to stay in the race and to cater to the expectations and requirements of the fast-changing global needs. Companies must innovate to avoid the FDH (fat, dumb, and happy) syndrome, try new things and not rest on their laurels.

In 1955, Fortune Magazine listed the 500 largest companies in a list that was synonymous with success. 60 years later, only 71 of those companies remain. So what happened during this course of time? These companies failed to adapt to changing business needs, they missed seeing a wave that made their existence irrelevant.

Kodak and Walkman should be guilty of failing to innovate and missing the waves that swept their industry and so should be Polaroid and Imation. Nokia once ruled the mobile phone market when Samsung was struggling and Apple was still not part of the market. Nokia failed to anticipate, understand, or organize itself to deal with the changing times. Though they made a come back with Windows Phone after the Microsoft acquisition, they are still struggling to get back to their earlier position.

There are hundreds of such case studies of failures due to lack of innovation. Let us look at a few:

MySpace: It goes to show how important the evolution of user experience is, seeing as how Facebook swooped in where Myspace had already made decent ground. It only focused on connecting people on a single level whereas it lost to Facebook who figured out this wasn’t a recipe for success but people wanted to connect on various levels, and this knowledge turned Facebook into a global force.

Blackberry: This company focused on the enterprise and not consumers, unlike Apple and Android phone makers. Apple focused on touchscreen phones, which gave the user an amazing experience. Apple redefined the market and left Blackberry stumbling who were blinded by their own early success.

Borders: Failure to go online and sticking to its guns in the physical store space even as consumers shifted to online, the once-mighty Borders bookstore chain was forced to outsource its website to, Inc.

While we look at the organisation that failed to sustain the market demands, we should also have a peep into companies who adopted Innovation as a culture to survive.

Innovation need not be revolutionary or the exclusive domain of new or improved products. Dell innovated on systems and processes, while Toyota took an incremental approach to innovation. Innovations can be in marketing as they have been at Procter & Gamble. For companies such as 3M and Apple necessity was the mother of innovation as they had no choice but to innovate to survive.

Google: Google invaded the space of search engine and Ad selling. It was a start-up innovator which transformed into a huge international corporation. Everything in Google goes through a design thinking process and follows innovation principles. They also go about recognizing great new technologies and acquiring the smaller innovative companies.

3M: In its early years, 3M was a dismal failure because of its years of mining losses and red ink. 3M executives did what most successful executives do when faced with failure. They used it as an opportunity to find a path to success. They could build an innovation culture within, which took them places.

Apple: A company that needed $150 million investment to stay afloat. In a very short period of time, Apple grew to the most valuable company ever. Apple, once given up for dead, now let’s other software writers create content and applications for their hardware, and then profits from the sales. This isn’t to say they aren’t still innovating, but they aren’t dependant on only one thing for their revenue stream.


What is and is not innovation?

Innovation is doing things differently, catering to market needs, and adapting to changing technologies to improve on processes, services, people, and productivity. Anything that creates a competitive advantage to your organization can be termed innovation.

Out of our day to day conversations comes innovation. Innovation is not something that one just wake up one day and says ‘I shalt innovate’. Innovative culture is the work ambiance that the top-level management cultivates in order to nurture out of the box thinking and its application. Companies that foster a culture of innovation generally latch onto the belief that innovation is not a province of a few brainy resources or a particular group, job, or department, but it can come from anywhere and anyone in the organization.

Ping-pong tables, bean bags, sticky notes or whiteboards can only help an organization to promote innovation culture to an extent. Even after introducing such practices, management often is frustrated by the lack of results. In spite of having all the great tools to innovate, there is no innovation.

What we understand of innovation is things that we do differently to produce better, more efficient and valuable results. Innovation can occur on a large or small scale. It can be as simple as making a process easier, saving money with a new solution, or finding a way to make a task more productive. The key to creating a culture of innovation is to make innovation a part of everyday work.


Why innovate?

To encourage and promote innovation, companies need to foster a sense of challenge. Who would have thought that cell phones would become cameras and music players?



In a non-innovative environment, these might be the general perception of people:

  • “Our organization has other important things to do than to waste time on small ideas.”
  • “We want new ideas, but I am not paid for that, why should I do it?”
  • “I am from HR department and I have nothing to do with innovation”.
  • “We have performed fine; let’s stick to it instead of trying something new.”
  • “People are going to get cynical about all these change initiatives.”

There is a myth that innovation requires a large investment, and this leads to innovation teams being asked to come up with a detailed plan on timelines and budget, and also restricts companies from placing big bets.

Assuming many innovations may not succeed, it is a good strategy to have a good number of them running in parallel with small investment to discover ideas that can work.


Innovation as a culture

Innovation is driven by leaders, and brilliance in leading innovation has very little to do with the leader themselves having innovative ideas. A leader must cultivate a culture where creativity and innovation thrive in every cubicle of the company.

It is not sufficient for the leaders to make innovation an employee’s KRA, or to attend meetings on innovation regularly. Promoting innovation is a strategy, but cultivating it down to the root level is the execution. Leaders must role model transformation and engage employees at all levels.

So while leaders lament the absence of innovation in their organization they are still not willing to give away the fifty-paged business plans and the short-term losses they come across.

Someone has rightly said “Unless the culture is in place it’s difficult to make progress on the innovation front”

Execute ideas employees come up with. Good ideas need to be implemented, they are worth risking, and bad ones needs to be killed as fast as possible. True innovation is not only about supporting new ideas and new ways of doing business, but also executing the right ideas when the time is right.

Companies that do not believe in innovation as a culture have very high chances of perishing or are already on the way to decline.


Quick steps to build Innovation as a culture in your organization:

To create an innovation culture in your organization

  • Have clear innovation vision
  • Have Efficient Innovation Programs
  • Allow employees to fail and encourage them to learn from failures

Ideate Constantly, build an Idea Funnel

  • Have Ideation Workshops & events
  • Have idea generation avenues & enriching sessions
  • Have a strategy to take ideas to market

Formulate the right Policies and Processes

  • Get the right tools
  • Create structures, policies, and processes to enable innovation
  • Reward and recognize

Identify, Protect & Monetize your IP

  • IP when protected gains value
  • Protect with patents, copyrights, and trademarks
  • Monetize your IP

Collaborate, Contribute and Grow

  • Collaborate with industry
  • Collaborate with academia


In conclusion:

Innovation as a culture is imperative in every organization to stay relevant in this competitive world. Following the right innovation practices is imperative to achieve higher success rate and to stay relevant.

Is Innovation a culture in your organization? How are you building it?

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