Innovation is not something that happens by chance. It’s the result of a system that involves creativity, experiments and testing, collaboration and learning. Innovation is also not something that only a few people can do. As we have noted over the years, it is a skill that can be developed and nurtured in everyone, regardless of their role, background or industry. One of the important parts of an innovation strategy is inspiration. We don’t use that word enough or recognize its importance. A good example of an innovative company in our industry is Corning in New York, which has been innovating for the last 170 years.

Today, we will share some tips and best practices for building a culture of innovation in your organization, based on our experience as innovation experts and consultants.

First, you must conduct an open and honest evaluation of where your organization is in the process of innovation. Some basic ideas on how to run your assessment are:

– Surveys: You must be bold and dig into your real culture. You may not like the answers, but that’s the point. Your team should create questions and collect data from all your employees about their perceptions, opinions and experiences regarding innovation in your organization. Ask about boundaries, known metrics, ability to fail, and resourcing, along with asking about personal experiences with suggestions they have made.

– Interviews: Use face-to-face interviews to gather more in-depth information from selected employees or stakeholders about their views and stories related to innovation in your organization. The main question is “How innovative are we?”

– Focus groups: You can use group discussions to explore the collective perspectives and insights of a representative sample of employees or stakeholders about innovation in your organization.

Second, you must put in place what you have learned from the surveys and your other research. Action bias is the key here. Do big things such as implementing incentives for ideas of the month, and strongly consider different types of innovation management software, such as QMarkets’ Idea Management Software.

You must resource this program appropriately with the manpower and machinery required to move the needle. A C-level executive focused only on product innovation is one of the best ways to change the company dynamic around innovation, if you don’t already have one.

Third, the key KPI and metrics must be implemented ASAP. We can only improve what we measure and these are key:

– Measure new product sales as a percentage of sales with a clear sales goal. New products should roll on a three year cycle;

– Measure Innovation cost vs margin of new products;

– Measure the margin of new products vs existing products; and

– Compare your metrics vs others in the industry for benchmarking.

Fourth, as we note often, you must focus on development of your skills, your team’s skills, and the resources that develop innovation. The culture of Innovation will not flourish without lots of focus and strategy.

Keep Innovating!

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