In the business world, innovation, culture and leadership are three concepts that we all talk about, but based on our experience, we rarely agree on what each of them means, even within an organization.

In this article we clarify these terms and their importance within an organization and explain how they relate to each other. 

What is innovation?

Innovation consists of providing different answers to existing problems or needs.

Innovation never creates a problem, but rather satisfies a need or solves a problem in a different way. The first step in innovation, therefore, is to list the problems or needs that we are able to detect.

In order to innovate it is necessary to stimulate four innate abilities in people, but which are dormant, mainly due to prejudice. The so-called CICE: Curiosity, Imagination, Creativity and Experimentation.

What is the culture of innovation?

We must bear in mind that innovation culture and innovation are not the same thing. In the case of innovation we refer to a milestone, a solution, while innovation culture is a process. 

Innovation is easy and can even be outsourced, but culture cannot be outsourced, although it can be transformed.

In the same organization there are different cultures, i.e. different views and versions of the same data. And if we talk about innovation, even more so. Innovation is something that everyone talks about but that everyone understands and practices differently. Sometimes we make bad decisions because the starting point is wrong, incorrect or discrepant. 

Therefore, it is essential to agree on the concepts within the same organization, to define what innovation is for us, to ensure that this definition is shared by all departments and people in the organization and that it defines our culture. This definition may not be perfect and may one day need to be changed, but it must unite the members of the company and make everyone speak the same language.

How to transform culture and foster innovation from leadership?

A leader must be authentic. We understand authenticity as the coherence between what he thinks, says, does and feels.

Being a manager of a company is not the same as being an authentic leader. The manager directs, while the leader, in addition, influences and stimulates employees. A leader must create the physical and temporal spaces to stimulate the four aforementioned skills – curiosity, imagination, creativity and experimentation – in the people who are part of the organization, as well as provide time and space for them to put them into practice.

If people are told what to build, they will build what they are told to build. Therefore, if you manage people by what you think they should do, you will never know what they might become. The interactive logic, fundamental to innovation, is based on the principle of giving others a lot of leeway. At this point, gamification is a good tactic to stimulate creativity among employees.

If an organization has cultural leadership, it will outlive its leader. Companies like 3M, Siemens, PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble are examples of this. All four are in the top 30 of the most innovative and profitable companies for more than 100 years and, despite this, the names of their managers are not as well known as those of Google, Apple or Tesla, which have innovative leaders, but perhaps not a true culture of innovation. 

How to measure the innovation culture of your company?

For all these reasons, knowing the details and characteristics of your culture and your cultures allows you to structure action plans to reduce cultural discrepancies and increase trust and productivity, and not only innovation!

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InnoQuotient is a unique tool to measure the innovation culture of organizations, based on a solid model and statistically validated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Every organization has resources to innovate and measurable results, and all the people in it have values, as well as a way of thinking and acting, all of which contribute to generate a certain climate. InnoQuotient is a 360-degree diagnostic that analyzes leadership, climate and culture. Each of these areas can be subdivided into three blocks and each of them into elements, up to a total of 54. With this, we have a diagnosis of the culture that allows us to know the accelerators and brakes to be more profitable, because innovation implies value and profitability, it never competes on price.