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How CEO’s and Executives can nurture a more innovative culture

It’s safe to say that most every enterprise CEO today wants to nurture and increase his organization’s ability to innovate. With the lifespan of companies on the S&P 500 down to roughly 12 years, the burning platform is clear: Innovate or become extinct!

So how do you as a CEO enable a more innovative culture in your organization? What do you have to do? Where do you focus and what’s most important? Where and how do you start?

Below is a framework that you might consider for improving your innovation culture.

The 4 elements that make up the innovation culture of firms

There are 4 elements to driving a more innovative culture:

1. The types of people you hire.

Do you hire people that have the innovators DNA in them and are Do’ers? Innovation does not happen by committee and through endless meetings but rather by doing, learning, iterating, and continuing this Build, Measure, Learn cycle with tenacity and determination.

Ask yourself: Do I have enough Makers vs. Managers in my organization, i.e. people that have bias for action and are not afraid of rolling up their sleeves and taking ownership of driving forward an initiative?

You need to enough people that are driven to innovate and invent.

2. How you organize and incentivize your people.

How you initially organize the people in the organization, incentivize them and design the supporting processes, will greatly determine what type of behavior and results you will achieve.

Consider if your people are organized and incentivized in a manner that furthers innovation versus creating friction?

3. Do I have the right infrastructure, systems and tools to enable our people to (easily) innovate?

Consider the last 3 innovation efforts you undertook. How did they come about? How were they moved forward? Where did they land? Across the process, what were struggles and challenges, and what went well?

Where in your current operations do systems and infrastructure enable versus create complexity and friction for innovation?

4. Have we agreed on how to approach and execute on innovation versus leaving the actual tactics up to each individual?

Having an institutionalized playbook for how innovation is executed is a tremendous forte. With agreed approaches, your people and it’s leaders will know what to do, how to measure progress and how to evaluate their innovations.

An example of this process is the Lean Startup approach, evolved and evangelized by Eric Ries and taught to thousands of employees across enterprises, with General Electric being a lighthouse example of a company that has institutionalized approach.

Do you have an institutionalized approach to innovation so that your people know exactly what to do to execute their innovative ideas?

Conclusion

Becoming more innovative as an organization is not a simple matter, and not isolated to just one element.

An example: Training your people in the Lean Startup method does not necessarily move you to become a leading innovator, you must consider the other elements: Systems, People, Organization and incentives.

I’d encourage you, your leadership team and if possible your people, to consider the 4 elements and score yourself to determine where you can make improvements.

Making changes is not easy, but with an assessment of your current situation and some hypothesis on where you might start, at least you can start the journey.

Question: What is your perspective as Leaders as it relates to designing and executing a more innovative culture?