Around 85 per cent of productivity gains are related to investments in innovation, according to the World Economic Forum. As the world undergoes deep transformational changes, “investments in innovation are now as important as infrastructure, skills and markets”. Corporate innovation culture is a critical precondition to successful innovation.
But what is corporate innovation culture? It’s the work environment that encourages employees to generate and bring to market new ideas. It needs the four essential elements: creative leaders, creative workforce, creative workplace, and clear understanding of innovation processes by all company members. Almost half of all chief executives say their corporate innovation culture is weak, according to business surveys.
Innovation culture starts with leaders committed to innovation. Creative themselves, they align all company members behind their vision. They take a broader innovation approach, focusing on innovation in business models and policies beyond new technologies, products and services. They understand innovation is not a short ‘fix’ but a long-term investment.
Creative employees are the number one organisation practice for a successful innovation culture. To improve creativity, many companies opt for on-the-job training and mentoring. Hiring and retaining employees with the creative skill set is now the highest priority for many companies. Creative employees need stimulating colleagues, freedom and time to experiment with new ideas, and non-monetary recognition.
Creative workplace is the organisational structure that can be described as ‘order+freedom’: de-centralised, non-bureaucratic, and flexible, where ‘traditional’ hierarchy exist in conjunction with the culture of informal relationships. It has outside-box thinking and risk-taking as the benchmarks. Belittling of new of ideas is ruled out and mistakes are treated as learning opportunities.
As Google’s co-founder Larry Page said: “If we don’t have mistakes, we’re just not taking enough risks.” An attitude such as ‘This is the way we’ve always done it’ is replaced by the questions like ‘What are the challenges we need to address to achieve the breakthrough?’
To build a successful innovation culture, company’s leaders and members must understand the innovation process: from stating problems in ways that encourage creative problem-solving and choosing the right paths for innovations, to how to generate, evaluate and pitch new ideas.
MASK PRIZE. Innovation culture must be cultivated in a society, as well as in business, and it starts with young people. Five years ago, the MASK School for Creativity and Innovation established the MASK Prize creativity competition to catalyse innovation culture among the new generation of Kenyans. http://mobileartschoolinkenya.org/MASK-Prize.
Partnering with the Star, MASK Prize campaign reaches almost 500,000 people in Kenya annually, more than 4,500 young people and 200 schools in East and South Africa have directly participated. The MASK Prize awards Sh300,000 to its prize-winners and calls for Kenyan businesses to sponsor the prizes. If you are a business leader who believes there should be a dynamic innovation culture in Kenya, contact the MASK Prize organisers on [email protected]
Alla Tkachuk is a creativity and innovation consultant and training specialist, Twitter: @MASKcharity