Building a Culture of Innovation Starts with Your People

Developing an innovation strategy is no easy task. Introducing a steady stream of compelling, profitable products to market is even more daunting. However, as a leader in your company, there is a crucial component of innovation that you can start to influence almost immediately: your people and culture.

It’s been said over and over again that your people are your greatest asset. And really, isn’t this where all innovation stems from? Your people and culture set the tone of your company – it makes sense that this should be one of the first building blocks to any innovation strategy.

So how do you inspire, and then organize your people to innovate?

Get passionate. Creating a culture focused on innovation requires leaders who not only push but accept innovative thinking at every turn. Ideas from employees need to be welcomed, recognized and awarded. Management needs to ingrain the message in their people, and follow through on their word, that they are willing to invest in riskier projects.

Here are two companies that are doing it right:

  • Emerson Electric features a Wall of Fame honoring leaders and teams within the company who have contributed to innovation. With such a highly visible form of recognition how can you not walk into work every day with innovation at top of mind?
  • 3M employees are allowed to spend 15 percent of their week on a dream project of their choice. These mini-ventures then come to fruition when there is a solid concept to present to company stakeholders. According to insiders, most of the breakthroughs at 3M in recent years have come from this approach. Now that’s a tangible form of encouragement.

Get aligned. With development teams more globally distributed than ever, the challenges of cross-team coordination and collaboration remain very real. When working in silos, it’s difficult to build on each other’s breakthrough concepts. Groups can even end up working against each other unknowingly as regional priorities may differ significantly. Mergers and acquisitions can also disrupt a flow of ideas and create knowledge gaps. Getting people, priorities, processes and information all aligned is vital to hitting the ground running on innovation.

Get structured. Jack Hughes, the founder of an open community of web developers, stated it best in a Harvard Business Review blog entry:

“Organizational structure will have to change to meet the new reality of creativity as a core component of value and continuous innovation… The new organization will include structures that support innovation 24/7/365 and at increasing scale. They will be more like organisms than machines. They’ll be structurally fluid — bringing individuals together in creative networks designed to adapt to an ever-changing landscape of customer needs and desires, often at a moment’s notice.”

As innovation-focused projects cross functions, departments, and geographies, alignment is required,  and this alignment lives within a technology-built framework of shared processes and information. It’s this structure, in fact, that empowers your product development and design teams to innovate more freely.

Cultivating a culture of innovation requires curiosity, change, and a champion. And it all starts at the executive level. How are you injecting innovation into your company?

To explore more ideas on product innovation and managing innovation teams read our Accelerating Innovation Article Series.

PTC will be participating at Product Innovation Chicago on October 9-10. Stop by the booth to share your thoughts on innovation!



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