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Last week, the edison365 team presented multiple sessions at Innov8rs Connect. With the focus of this most recent event being Culture Teams and Talent, we were really excited to speak with and hear from innovators around the globe about how they go about building an innovation culture. We talked about how our clients build it out, why it’s important and the challenges that many face 

Here are just a few key takeaways from our attendance at Innov8rs Connect. 

Democratizing innovation  

A big theme for both our CEO, Ivan Lloyd’s presentation as well as our EVP, Tad Haas was the idea of democratizing innovation.  

This is the concept behind putting the power of innovation in the hands of all your employees. When Tad asked his audience how they currently drive innovation in their organization, 80% of attendees responded that they had a designated innovation team or department. Many organizations recognize that it’s important to have a center of excellence for innovation, but keeping all ideation activities solely within this team can actually be quite demotivating (and excluding) to the rest of the organization. Anyone can have good ideas, and what’s needed is a way to capture them in an inclusive and structured manner. Developing a process to democratize innovation is an excellent first step to building out your innovation culture.  

Seeing ideas through to the end  

The next step to developing and embedding an innovation culture for your organization is to ensure you’ve got a process to see ideas through to the end. This doesn’t mean that every idea has to be turned into a project, in fact Tad actively encourages the concept of keep or kill projects depending on their outcomes (we’ll talk about this later!), but you have to take every idea through a cycle.  

If employees take time to put forward ideas and then they disappear into a blackhole with no information about their outcomes, it’s unlikely they’ll get involved again. Create a structured journey for ideas to go through, communicate this to your employees, and establish the assessment criteria for what constitutes a good idea. This will not only improve the quality of ideas being submitted, but also keep employees engaged as they’re aware of what is happening with their contributions. 

Understanding motivation  

During Tad’s session, one attendee asked a very important question regarding sub-cultures within organizations. Different teams and individuals will be motivated by different things, so how can you engage them in innovation?  

Tad explained that you need to incorporate reward AND recognition into your innovation culture so that you can address both those motivated by extrinsic items (motivation that arises outside the individual like money or trophies) and those interested in the more intrinsic factors (motivation arises from the individual. They do something because they enjoy what they’re doing and don’t need rewards for it). He explained that during his time speaking with customers, frontline workers really enjoy gamification and the competition aspect of it. So, when building out your innovation culture, you need to ask yourself do you have a method in place to address these different motivations?  

Scaling the innovation wall  

Ivan explained during his session that many organizations face something called the innovation wall. This is a barrier ideas often fail to break which is a barrier where ideas tend to fall, and the momentum of innovation is lost. He shared some ways to climb this wall, one of which was the essential step of communication.  

We’ve already discussed communicating the process as a whole, but when launching a challenge, you need to ensure you’ve addressed WHY you’re trying to change and leverage desire to change. He explained that you need to approach this part of the process like an internal communications activity. Engage employees by demonstrating and reinforcing the benefits of innovation. Ensure that your organization WANTS to carry ideas over the line by making it obvious ‘whats in it for them’. 

Accepting and acknowledging failure 

Finally, the thing that was mentioned across both our sessions was the idea of failure during the innovation journey. Failure should be communicated and celebrated in order to learn and focus on successful innovations. For organization to truly give permission to innovate, that includes permission to fail.   

Ivan explained as part of climbing the innovation wall you need to measure the value to see the impact of your innovation. He said that organizations need to quantitatively and qualitatively measure outcomes as well as lessons learned for further improvement. Understanding what success looks like can help you more accurately decide when to keep or kill a project, offering more opportunities to learn and adjust your portfolio.  

Tad said organisations pay lip service to the idea of embracing failure. People talk about it a lot but when it comes to budgets and careers being on the line, this is rarely true. You need to measure the outcomes to see whether an idea is bringing benefit or not. If it’s not, reflect on the business case to see why this might be, and if no answer can be found, kill the project. This is the idea of keep or kill projects. There’s no point spending budget on ideas that aren’t bringing any value. If you’re not keeping track of the value as Ivan discussed, failed projects become a much bigger issue.  

After a period of great disruption, innovation culture is front of mind for many organizations as they’re looking for a way to keep this momentum going. With the insights mentioned above, you’ll have the knowledge to build the foundations of a solid culture of innovation.  

You can find out more about Innov8rs Connect here

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