9 ways to kick start your innovation culture

In our book Culture Change in the Digital Age, we define the four key elements of a digital culture as: customer centric, biased for action, networked and purpose-driven. All of these, we believe, are essential foundations for success in the the digital age, not least because they underpin a healthy innovation culture.

At Brilliant Noise we think of innovation as being about constant challenge, questioning and improvement – not one-off eureka moments. As Steven Johnson writes in his seminal book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation: “The vast majority of breakthrough innovations are the result of collaboration between different sorts of players, in open networked environments.”

Here’s my top eight to start playing with in January 2016

  1. Forget about the successes of 2015 – for just a moment.
    What about the things that didn’t work? Go back to your rough cuts, your prototypes, your fledgling ideas. What’s hidden away there that you can build on? What did you learn while you were experimenting – how can you use that learning?
  2. Focus on connecting ideas – not protecting them.
    Get new questions, challenges and ideas out into the open. Share them with the wider team and see who or what can connect.
  3. Redesign workflows around collaboration – not silos.
    For each new project or initiative you take on in January, consider who is best placed to help you deliver, no matter where they are in the organisation.
  4. Work with your technical team.
    Innovation is not all about technology, but the two can play out beautifully to create the totally new. As Martin Gill, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, said in our recent breakfast briefing on digital transformation: “Unless the people who understand the capabilities of the technology – the developers – are fundamentally engaged in designing both the customer experience and the business models of the future, we’ll only ever get what we’ve always got.”
  5. Remind yourself and your team why you turn up in the morning.
    Make your customer front and centre of your day and your environment. Start every day – every meeting – asking: “what can we do differently to delight them?”
  6. Know when to stop.
    A healthy innovation culture thrives on agile methods. Pilot, iterate and scale and always ask: ‘How can this be better?” It is important to know when to kill off bad ideas and release the energy to start something new.
  7. Make the light green. 
    “When you don’t have to ask for permission, innovation thrives,” Steven Johnson writes. And the number of examples that prove this to be true are innumerable. So ditch the red tape, scrap the multiple sign offs and give people freedom to explore.
  8. Create time.
    Google’s 20% time is heralded and derided in equal measure. But there’s still something in it. If people are rammed to the rafters doing ‘stuff’ they won’t have the time to innovate. Create time and make sure everyone knows what’s important. Give people freedom to challenge the daily routine to make sure everything they’re doing is adding value – not just feeding the machine.
  9. Make failure okay.
    Fear will inhibit your innovation culture like nothing else so celebrate when things go wrong. Not every challenge, idea or work stream will deliver what it set out to. But all will deliver learning.

If you’re stuck and you’d like to explore with us. Do get in touch.