Hacking Innovation Culture

The Australian Government’s recently released National Innovation and Science Agenda confirms that Australia is well and truly in the midst of an #ideasboom.

In an effort to promote eco-systems that support Innovation Culture, the government has proposed initiatives such as access to Crowd Sourced Equity Funding, an Incubator Support Program, tax incentives for investors and even a Global Innovation Strategy.

Typically regarded as laggards when it comes to innovation, this is good news for Australia. However, there is still some catching up to do. While we managed to avoid a recession, the benefits of Australia’s strong economy in recent years has not resulted in a culture of creativity and risk taking. Since 2004, Australia has dropped from 9th place in the UN’s Global Innovation Index to 19th place. Despite being ranked 13th in the world for Innovation Inputs we rank an unbelievable 107th in the world for Innovation outputs.

When compared to the #resourcesboom fail we can understand why Innovation Culture is now a priority for our government and our nation’s future economy. So here’s a question for you; what are you doing about fostering your Innovation Culture?

Innovation culture is the work environment that leaders cultivate in order to nurture unorthodox thinking and its application. Workplaces that foster a culture of innovation generally subscribe to the belief that innovation is not the province of top leadership but can come from anyone in the organization. Innovation cultures are prized by organizations that compete in markets defined by rapid change; maintaining the status quo is insufficient to compete effectively, thus making an innovation culture essential for success.


Having spent most of my background in disruptive innovation and startups and challenged many Australian corporates to shift thinking and practices, I propose the following model:

Innovation Culture model – An integrated systems-based approach to innovation:

Hacking Innovation Culture

Foundation: Safety and Inclusion: This is the most important aspect of any highly functioning Innovative Culture. Google recently reported that safety as a value was the key ingredient to them out innovating. Without this foundation your culture is unstable and risk avers. As with most values they must be witnessed and demonstrated from the top before being adopted by the rest of the organisation. To ensure that its safe to take risks, to speak up and hold everyone including leaders accountable is how you live this value. Going out of your way to be inclusive in strategic and tactical aspects of the business with employees that are not directly responsible for these agenda’s fosters inclusion and ownership. Hence Safety and Inclusion is a leadership mandate and a virtuous value cycle. The more inclusion demonstrated the more safety will be generated and the safer we feel the more we are inclined to be inclusive. From this cohesive base you are now free to make meaningful changes to the next level.

Leadership: We need a new lens for leadership, connect and collaborate leadership models outperform 20th century command and control models every time. This is the only way we can harness collective wisdom and ownership for high performance. Typically fear gets in the way of this change however but the ROI on connect and collaborate based leadership far out ways old models due to qualitatively better information flows, hyper engagement and collaborative approaches to problem solving to say the least. When supported with corporate social networking technology like Yammer and Chatter connect and collaborative leadership styles become even more effective. However, beware, your integrity as a leader will be subject to more auditing than ever before as the organisation heads towards a Holacracy.

Engagement: It’s never been more important to engage your employees effectively. Don’t and you’re organisation is prone to flight risk at all levels. Enabling purpose-driven participation by actively engaging people’s sense of intrinsic value turns work into something more meaningful. Be human with your employees, discover their passions and align them to how they can contribute to your mission. Best to do this on the way into your organisation by getting real on values alignment, mastery pursuits and purpose goals. This too can be enhanced with engagement technology by rewarding and recognising performers who demonstrate values and ownership best.

Execution: Now its all good to have great leadership and engagement but if I don’t have the tools, be it technology, funding and loosened delegated authority to take risks the friction barrier may be too high hence hindering any self governed intrapraneurs and more importantly get in the way of employee’s sense of autonomy. Access to tools, resources and people that enable rapid prototyping and acts of innovation is why Google endorse their 20% time on personal projects that help their enterprise.

The integration of the above dynamics leads to high quality innovations more often in a really scalable model. The virtuous dynamics between an engaged and equipped team supported by a collaborative and connected leadership team that’s underscored by a sense of safety and inclusion enables your organisation to be joined at the hip in pursuit of meaningful goals much easier and consistently.

Sustaining Innovation Culture – Top 5 keys to sustaining your innovation Culture include:

  1. Measures – Organizations with innovation cultures measure success by asking what business value the person has delivered, how sustainable that value has been, what new ideas they’ve brought to the table and how many of them actually were executed. Change what you measure and you change behaviour.
  2. Coherence – Occurs when honesty, authenticity and integrity are easily identified within an organisation. Without this you are subject to hidden agendas, miscommunication and projections from leadership that are destructive. Carving out time for constructive and safe criticism so that you can surface issues within the culture before they become a cancer.
  3. Attitudes to Failure – If your culture deems failure to be negative in the pursuit of improvement you are destined to be left behind. Failure is a necessary part of the innovation process because from failure comes learning, iteration, adaptation, and the building of new conceptual and physical models through an iterative learning process. Almost all innovations are the result of prior learning from failures.
  4. Real Time Performance Reviews – The days where annual performance reviews where best practice are gone and for good reason. With the advent of engagement technology and social corporate networking platforms organisations can now get real time in project feedback on performance, which in turn affects sentiment, retention and engagement.
  5. Team Retreats – Not the old school reward only retreats exclusively for your high performers. Facilitated by organisational transformation agents who know how to get under the tent, enable a cohesive team environment through inquiry into the thoughts and beliefs that get in the way of team performance such as trust and honesty will foster true connectedness and purpose in the team where everyone thinks and acts like owners.

Nothing is more constant than change. Furthermore, the speed of change is accelerating. How will you keep up?

Constantine Georgiou has spent the last 15 years designing, building and scaling Innovation Culture through his own startups Velteo and One Million Acts of Innovation and currently with CapitalPitch, an Investor Readiness Accelerator for startups and scaleaups.

 

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