Building a culture of innovation is the direct responsibility of top leaders if they are serious about working towards the future. This critical piece of responsibility can’t be delegated to lower levels in the organization; it must be led by “C-level” leaders.
A culture of innovation requires leaders to really believe that innovation is a strategy to compete in the marketplace and sustain business. But believing is just the beginning; leaders need to talk the talk and walk the walk in order to translate their beliefs into actions, showing the right behavior towards disruptive changes, and accepting that existing products/services will be cannibalized for the good of new and better ones.
You can tell a true leader by the time and money they spend on innovation initiatives, meetings, and projects. Innovative leaders spend a generous amount of time connecting, coaching, and mentoring their people. They encourage entrepreneurial thinking and promote creativity, and they back it up with the ultimate sign of proof, the ROI.
Remember, leaders don’t directly innovate, they inspire people with future vision, and they develop their people by challenging them to achieve more. It’s not about how much money companies spend on R&D, it’s about how much money they spend in developing and educating their people on how to innovate. In the late 90’s, IBM was spending 100 times more than any other company in R&D, yet Apple, who focused on building the culture and a strong teams of innovative engineers, became the greater success.
A last piece of responsibility for the "C-level" to build a culture of innovation is to create a safe environment for their people to express their opinions, voice their ideas, provide them with the resources to experiment, and treat failure as a learning opportunity.
All of these efforts will build the innovation culture, but it will not be effective and efficient if there is no alignment across the organization to help people see how they impact the organization’s goals. There must be a clear process in place to manage, measure, and guide the whole innovation life cycle from concept to consumer.
Dr. Mohammed Alomairy, PhD. MBA, MSIE, CLSSBB, PMP.
Innovation & Performance Excellence Researcher, Consultant & Judge.