Derek Bishop


Swimming in innovation rewards

Date added: 17th Jul 2017
Category: Innovation Culture

Building a culture of innovation can seem akin to swimming against the tide; but when the tide turns ...

Why bother to instil a culture of innovation at your organisation?  After all, it seems like a lot of hard work.  There’s a culture reset to go through, plenty of entrenched objections to overcome, not to mention the challenge of persuading investors to move from a short-term profit outlook to one which is more long-term.

It can’t be worth it can it? Well to be quite frank the choice isn’t between moving to a culture of innovation and preserving the status quo. Because if you opt for the status quo then there is a fair chance that your business won’t even be there in years to come. So your choice as leaders is to build a culture of innovation or prepare for obsolescence.

Luckily there’s plenty of incentive in the form of successful organisations which are already well along the innovation route. Take Nvidia for example. A report by business insider has highlighted the fact that Nvidia’s culture of innovation has not only led it to be crowned the smartest company in the world by MIT, it has also helped to boost its share price. According to the report [1] one analyst has even called the culture of innovation at Nvidia “a deep and wide moat that separates it from traditional and start-up competitors.”

At first glance we’re not entirely sure if the moat analogy is the correct one to use when talking about the culture of innovation. After all, collaboration is one of the key planks of Next Generation Organisations and it’s hard to collaborate if the drawbridge is up.

On the other hand we can see what the analyst means. Businesses which have been existence for a long time tend to be entrenched, unless the leadership has taken active steps to reset the culture, strategy and values in recent times. So organisations which have set out to build a culture of innovation, which base their strategy on insight and adaptability and collaboration, find it easy not only to differentiate but also to be seen to be different.

Similarly, whilst the generalist view of start-ups is that they are automatically innovative and ready to disrupt the marketplace and take more than their fair share of business, this isn’t necessarily the case. Yes it is easier for them to have the potential to be innovative but that doesn’t necessarily equate to operating an innovation roadmap. Even start-ups which want to be innovative have to structure their businesses in the right way. So here again there is clear water between truly innovative companies and those which are merely following a tried and tested route.

Sometimes building culture of innovation can seem akin to swimming against the tide. Opening up to collaboration, removing silos, seeing failures as a learning point rather than a cause for censure; in the initial phase all these and more can be counterintuitive to those brought up in a more hierarchical and rule-bound organisation. But it truly is worth persisting. Eventually the tide will turn and all the hard work will come flooding back, delivering as it does so engaged employees, satisfied investors and innovative products which truly meet customer needs.

Is innovation worth it? When it’s a choice between sinking in the quicksand of ‘same-old same-old’ or swimming in clear innovation waters; I’d say it is.


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