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Cris Beswick

Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation

Read more from Cris Beswick

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Want innovation? Know where to start

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Finding himself lost in the countryside a driver stops and asks a man leaning on a gate for directions.  After a thoughtful look at the sky the man replies, “Well if I was you I wouldn’t be starting from here.”  It’s a story which we’ve used before but it is one which perfectly sums up the challenge facing those looking to change their culture, especially to an innovation-led one; just where do you start?

It’s an age-old dilemma.  At heart the problem is that having identified that something needs to change, it is hard to resist the temptation just to get on and do something.  But the more that culture change is rushed the more likely it will fail.  Taking time to evaluate, to truly understand where the organisation is today will then give senior teams a better understanding of what they need to do to create lasting change tomorrow.

This desire to rush into the change phase is something which we encounter on a regular basis when we are coaching or advising on innovation culture.  Creating a culture of innovation may lead to game-changing results but only if the process is carried out in a structured way.  And one of the most important early steps is to identify the level of innovation maturity for the organisation.  How hierarchical is the structure, is there already cross-departmental collaboration, does the business operate a closed system with carefully defined steps or does it freely look to share and collaborate with others? 

All these questions and more will help senior teams to truly understand where the organisation currently stands as well as acting as a benchmark for future change.  After all, you can’t manage what you can’t measure may be an old saying but it is one which leaders would do well to remember. And don’t forget; in a multi-departmental, multi-subsidiary organisation the level of innovation maturity may well vary across the business. 

But evaluating the current level of innovation maturity is not just an exercise for the senior team; the training & development department and HR team too has a strong interest in the results.  If you are looking to change the culture to one of intelligence, collaboration and adaptability then there will undoubtedly be a fair amount of work for the training & development team to do.  Starting at the top, leaders may have to be helped to change their attitude to one which is more collaborative and inclusive as well as brushing up on their communication skills.  Throughout the organisation managers will need to learn to communicate innovation differently and people will have to be enabled to collaborate and to share.  When failure is now a learning point, when customers and suppliers are now part of the business rather than ‘things to be done to’, when the focus turns from process into providing solutions then old habits will have to be unlearned and new attitudes and behaviours brought to the fore.

Is measuring the level of innovation maturity a one-off exercise?  Most certainly not.  In fact we would say that no measurement around innovation should be carried out on a once and for all basis.  It is a fine line between taking unnecessary time out of the working day to evaluate and working in the dark but the more ongoing and self-supporting innovation metrics are the better senior teams will be able to measure success and the ROII (Return on Innovation Investment) or otherwise. 

Feel free to email Cris at cris@thefutureshapers.com or visit www.thefutureshapers.com for more information on how Cris and his team help ambitious companies succeed through innovation.

Author Profile Picture
Cris Beswick

Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation

Read more from Cris Beswick
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