Right intention, wrong execution. Working with a large enterprise began in the usual way: the Innovation Team in a room discussing their objectives. Early on, however, it was very clear that this journey would fall to the common pitfalls that intuitively seem like the correct answer, but, with more insight, quite clearly hinder the culture shift.

The Innovation Team felt it was their responsibility to own all steps of the process and therefore drive the change from a centralised team. It didn’t work. A lack of buy-in from the organisation and confusion about the relevance of the campaign led to reluctance from others to participate and a negative perception about the Innovation Team’s intentions – the cultural shift was stopped dead in its tracks. This all could have been avoided.

An innovative culture does not spontaneously emerge, organisations work hard to build one. As a Senior Onboarding Manager at Wazoku, I have overseen the delivery of innovation programmes throughout a wide range of organisational structures, sizes and industries. The question I get asked most is ‘how do we get this right?’ There are key components that can greatly impact your cultural change from the outset when well done.

The Team – The REAL driving force behind your cultural change

As with everything, a change in culture needs to begin somewhere. When starting a project, we normally look at creating teams around subject matter experts with direct experience in delivering the project at hand. However, when we look at changing a culture, are there really such things as experts? The team needed to create a cultural shift in your organisation is quite possibly the most important step in this journey. If you select a group of ‘experts’ to delegate tasks to your organisation, you will have the actions of your innovation strategy achieved quickly, but you may have missed the exact cultural change you are wanting in your first step. Find people around you who are genuinely enthused by the notion of a cultural change, from all levels of the organisation and job roles, as they will become the champions of the desired change who will organically spread the message – ’We are the culture of this business, this change is for us.’

The Strategy – What is KEY

Your cultural shift toward innovation will boom, it will be a huge success, and everyone will want to be a part of leading the way So, who manages this? A clear understanding of why you want your organisation to be more innovative is essential as this will determine your innovation campaigns. In addition, if you are not clear on what you are trying to achieve, then understanding what success looks like is almost impossible. Tied closely to the points made regarding the team, who ‘owns’ each area of your innovation strategy should be enthusiastic volunteers from all levels of the business. Engage them early in the design stage of the strategy; give them ownership over what they will be expected to deliver. Designing a task and forcing someone to be more innovative will not create the culture you desire. For example, discuss the challenges faced by the head of a department and understand, from their point of view, why these challenges exist. Then work with that person to develop an innovation initiative to overcome these challenges. By doing this, you have created a plan with clear ownership, buy-in and success criteria.

The Communications – Innovation is ALL of us

You are now tasked with delivering your innovation message. The age old saying ’It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it‘ couldn’t be more applicable here. How you deliver your message ultimately has to fit your organisational spirit; after all, your innovative cultural should not be looking to fundamentally change who your business is, only make it the best it can be. Your first innovation campaign needs to be carefully considered as this will set the tone. First impressions last and changing people’s perception of your innovation strategy further down the line will be harder if you have confused the message out of the gate. Let’s say you have determined that there is a gap in the HR function that could be helped through innovation and a cultural shift at large. You want to target an innovation campaign in this area and therefore start to promote this with posters and intranet articles. There is a risk that people will assume your innovation strategy is an HR initiative as this is the first campaign they have seen. Regardless of future innovation campaigns people’s perception will always be that this is an HR initiative. It’s worth considering this. What will resonate on a positive note with your audience may not be the campaign which provides you with the best immediate ROI, and that’s OK. This is a journey and you will get there, but it must start on the right foot.

The Technology – FACILITATING the change

It’s fitting that technology is last on this list, not because it isn’t as important as the others, but because it is simply the enabler of your innovation strategy, not the creator. Without a framework behind the tool, your efforts will simply lead to the all-to-well-known situation of the ‘innovation blackhole’ where great ideas go to die. Determine your innovation strategy and purchase a tool that supports it. As Simon Hill mentions in the Future Shapers article “Innovation Insights: Idea Management Software”, an Idea Management tool can be an effective method to drive a cultural change by empowering all employees with the ability to participate. Focus on the features and functionality that support your strategy and don’t let the bells and whistles detract your focus. Technology can aid in your efforts to create a culture of transparency, collaboration and empowerment; however, it can just as easily give a negative perception if not managed well.

Creating an innovative culture truly is a journey and requires an iterative process to find what fits best for your organisation. Start by making sure that the cultural behaviours you want to instil are executed from the very beginning. Have your team be part of the strategy and let them organically champion your efforts throughout the business. Above all else, making your innovation strategy real to the people and areas of the business you want to affect will be the greatest driving force for change. Don’t let an innovation campaign happen through tick boxes; let it be driven by the exact values you want to create.