A Simple Formula to [Rapidly] Grow a Culture of Innovation

I get asked a lot about how to create a culture of innovation.

If you search for “How to create a culture of innovation” you’ll get a huge list of articles, blog posts, methodologies, and tales from the trenches.

I like to simplify things, so, here’s my post to add to the confusion.

Corporate culture is really nothing more than the ongoing behaviours of the people within the organization. These behaviours are shaped by the values of the organization, which are embodied by the people who work there (read that as “it is important to hire based on values as well as skills”).

To have true “culture” those behaviours must be turned into habits — habits that persist as people come and go and move around the organization.

That means that a culture of innovation is simply just a habit of innovating.

How do you develop a habit?

The simplest way is to use the trigger->behaviour->reward cycle.

To create a habit of innovation, your job is to create some sort of trigger to cause some sort of innovation that is rewarded (or recognize) somehow.

Simple, right?

To be honest, it is, however, there are some tricks to the type of triggers, the type of innovation behaviours and the type of rewards that actually work.

Far too often organizations agonize over those triggers, behaviours and rewards.

Don’t agonize. Just start. Once you get started, focus on continual improvement using whatever continuous improvement method you like (retrospectives, start stop keep, build measure learn, plan-do-check-act, etc).

I like to compare creating a culture of innovation to creating a habit of fitness. The first step is to get to the gym. Then improve from there.

With that said, it doesn’t hurt to get a personal trainer to help guide you ;-).

Getting help from someone who has mastered the process of building innovation cultures isn’t a bad thing, as long as you realize that you can’t go from couch to CrossFit champion in a day. I used a metaphor there to say that it takes time to build a solid culture of innovation in your organization, even with a strong mentor and coach.

<cough, cough, shameless plug: Helping organizations mature their culture of innovation by building innovation habits is literally what I have been put on this earth to do. #justsaying>