Since Pris, CEO and founder of Be-novative graduated as a psychologist, she often speaks about the psychological factors of how to build an innovation culture every day. As "culture eats strategy for breakfast" (that is mostly credited to Dr. Peter Drucker), establishing this new mind-set should be number one priority for every innovation manager or HR leader who want to turn their company into an innovation engine.
Researching Fortune2000 and disruptive startups' innovation habits from an organizational psychology viewpoint for the past 15 years, we found that emphasizing the following 4 team values will boost innovation in any disruptive startup team or traditional enterprise.
In fact, these 4 values we share within our team, Be-novative as well, since the time our startup was founded. We recommend you talk about these values within your team as first point on the agenda when you get together (after your summer holidays):
So let's deep dive into these 4 values in more details. As a disclaimer, the following points are not about habits, strategy or a reward-system you should apply. These team values are characteristics of your team and your innovation culture underpins your innovation strategy, every habit, reward-system, task-management process and yearly goals you create. They will be characteristic for your everyday work-environment just like to your long-term strategic plans. So you need to make effort to make your colleagues know them, understand them, support them and most importantly protect them under every situation they are in:1. People First
Empathy is important using Design Thinking with your customers, but not only with customers. You should always prioritize people first above any task or business KPI if you want to create a breakthrough - customers and team members are as well people, and if you get to know their needs and motivations, defining success will be much easier. We need to align the motivation of everyone within the team. Talk about how each team member shares the same vision and dream about how your product will look like, then you will be able to motivate everyone better.
As an innovative team, you will go through so many challenges - highs and lows together - and if you don’t prioritize supporting each other above all, it will be very hard to stand up after the first difficulties. Besides, we can really achieve the most if everyone does what they are mostly motivated to master and accomplish within the team. Allocating the tasks to the right people according to their motivation works better than the other way round: allocating people in positions with a ready-made task list they need to complete. If you let people do what they are most motivated to do, then each individual will surely go to the extra mile and as a team, you will be able to achieve wow results together.
2. Wow the Customer
There is nothing comparable to seeing your target customer with a shining spark in their eyes experiencing that your early-stage product can create so much value for them that they start to smile. These experiences will validate your product-vision best and make you feel that it is worth it to persevere even if obstacles come. If you want to disrupt an existing market or create pioneer high-value solution, you can’t get satisfied with anything less than wowing your customers. Simply good is just not good enough as a target when it comes to innovation. Go all the way for the wow-effect!
3. Be constructive
In an innovative team you need a safe and supportive space for creativity to flow. You are always sharing ideas with each other, hundreds of ideas come up in regular brainstorming sessions .... if you treat these creative ideas with respect and without judgement at first sight. The "yes and" type of culture will teach each other that we can add to our teammate's ideas and it is worth it to share suggestions. It is perfectly fine to realize what is wrong with an idea, but instead of a criticism try to say: 'I see this risk with this idea, but if we change / add this or this to it, we could eliminate that risk.' This is how everyone will feel safe and secure, thus learning will happen fast and you will be able to build up something together that will last.
4. Be proactive
If you support a proactive innovation culture, where everyone is expected to act on the ideas as well, then the experiments you make will result in innovation success. Strict task management and delegation of tasks rarely works when it comes to an innovation cycle. Instead, if everyone thinks in terms of goals and comes up with the tasks themselves asking: "What should I do to create the most impact? What can I do to achieve our weekly / monthly / quarterly / yearly goals better?" If everyone is expected to think in terms of goals and act proactively, this mindset will let your team increase your innovation cycle time and act quickly (close to how a startup does). And making small experimentation steps in an agile process is the key to validate your solution. Being proactive will lead to fast learning curves that will make you stand out of your competition and create an innovative solution with a wow-effect for your customers.
In today's Innovation Age, every organization will need to take effort to create a culture of innovation where breakthroughs can happen and your team can thrive. Breakthrough innovation should rather be the new normal established through actions that support collective creativity.
We dive deeper into how to create an innovation culture and deliver breakthroughs in our free ebook: the Collective Creativity Playbook