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Building an Innovative Culture Within Your Enterprise

Posted by Mark Hemmer on 11/28/16 10:00 AM
Mark Hemmer

innovativeculture.jpgWith a few famous exceptions, the enterprise isn't known for having an innovative culture. Innovation calls for change and transformation. That's a call the enterprise would rather not answer, in most cases. Because the enterprise wasn't built to be agile, it can feel impossibly difficult to shift, adapt, or pivot its longstanding configuration. Leadership operates on 'knowing what works' and 'the way things have always been done,' even as the market and consumer behavior on which those assumptions are based have changed significantly. The underlying presupposition of the enterprise is that years of past success will automatically lead to years of future success. Put simply: they don't want to believe that things are changing. They won't accept it until it's too late.

That's what you're up against. 

You, who sees the writing on the wall and the need for innovation. 

How you can plant the seeds of an innovative culture inside your enterprise? Start with these concepts and start building a culture that fits the future: 

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Ask More Questions

Ah, questions. The enemy of complacency, bureaucracy, and the status quo. If communication is a problem within your enterprise, questions can start to free up the information you need to affect change. It will be unpopular. But, ask more questions anyway. Ask why procedures work the way they do. Ask why the products and services are what they are. Ask 'what if _____________ happens?' Ask if you're even asking the right questions. If information is being withheld or questions simply aren't answered, that could be a sign that there's significant issues within the company. Asking questions leads to innovation. Don't let bad practices go unchallenged. There's always a better way. 

Embrace Failure  

Even reading the word f-a-i-l-u-r-e makes your stomach drop. For years, 'failure' has been held up as a worst case scenario. It's a strange way to look at something that happens all of the time. Literally, all of the time. In fact, failure is so common (and even productive!) that it should be looked at as part of a larger process. Thomas Edison had it right when he said, "I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." It's the right approach. Failure can be the step before a massive success and it often is. If fear of failure keeps you from taking chances or proposing new ideas for your enterprise, that's when you've actually lost. Not all attempts at innovating will be successful and that's ok. The enterprise should start seeing failure differently. 


Organizational Innovation is important for the enterprise truly looking to turn a corner. But, a lack of innovative culture leads to a lack of collaboration. To start to change that, push to work together more often. Collaborating on projects, new ideas, new concepts, and new offerings can lead to breakthroughs. Plus, it conditions the enterprise to be more receptive to innovation. If the enterprise is united in pushing toward change and ideas are free-flowing, successful innovation becomes more likely. Innovation is too often seen as a side-project - something that happens in a corner. It needs to be the focal point.

Have a Process 

If innovation is forced, it won't work. It can't be a put-on. Talking about innovation is great start, but it's not a substitute for action. In the same way, assigning 'innovation' to an individual or a team without the proper structure in place is an exercise in futility. Innovation can be an action-term. But, it needs a proven and repeatable process. Where does the enterprise find that kind of process? It may require some outside help. If you're looking to change the culture within your enterprise, having a process to present goes a long way towards affecting that change. A process provides structure, guidance, and - of course - results. With the right process in place, your enterprise can start innovating as its culture shifts to follow suit.

Start building an innovative culture today and reap the benefits well into the future. The enterprise that learns to innovate will be the enterprise that emerges as the industry leader. 


An Innovative Culture Needs an Innovation Process:

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