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February 10, 2019

How do I foster an innovation culture in my team?

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Building a culture of innovation is a ‘Game of Inches’ and not a one-off event or a single “eureka”’ idea.

Success comes from incrementally moving forward and finding innovative ways to consistently improve your business. So how do you help your people be innovative everyday?

As an innovation speaker, one of the challenges with this is that innovation is seen too often as large-scale radical disruption. There’s a stance out there for many businesses that to become more profitable and move to the next level they need to find the next big thing. As a result, most of your team see innovation as a scary and inaccessible proposition because it is too complex, too risky and too hard.

Let’s face it: most people in your organisation are simply trying to keep up with their own workload and their own processes on a day-to-day basis, so they don’t have the time or inclination to focus on innovative solutions for the entire business. But what if you shift that?

What if you change the view of innovation and its role?

What if rather than seeing it as disruptive you see it as an achievable everyday process and encourage your people to find ways of improving their part of the business, no matter how big or how small the improvement may be? Imagine the difference that would make throughout your organisation because great ideas and solutions are ones that are workable, profitable and make a difference to your business in a positive way.

To do that requires not just a shift in mindset from large-scale innovation to small-scale innovation.

Give your team permission to be innovative each and every day.

It also requires you to give your team permission to seek ideas that improve their world and more importantly act on those ideas. If they don’t feel they have your permission to do so then chances are they won’t .

You also need to be brave enough to give them permission to make mistakes. The good news is if you fail on a small-scale improvement it’s not going to break you. As Mark Evans, owner of Paronella Park in Queensland once told me: “You don’t learn anything if you don’t fail. ”

So always ask: “What did you learn and what can be done differently next time?”

Your team needs to measure the difference their innovative ideas are making.

Finally, great innovative ideas need to make a difference to your business in a positive way so you need to know how effective any improvements are. That doesn’t need to be complex because it could be as simple as measuring time saved, improved conversion rates or cost savings.

Here’s a case-study we did a while back on how a small change (16 footsteps in fact) added $30k difference to the bottom line of a restaurant.

It’s a shift from big to small – as an innovation speaker and researcher I see it all the time

Remember business success is a game of inches. Ask your people to invent the next Google or come up with the next Uber and they will freeze with panic and fear. (The myth of big is one of the challenges to innovation in most organisations). But foster a culture of achievable small-scale innovation and they will achieve greatness.