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How a Culture of Innovation Can Improve Your Innovation Process

For any successful innovation process, it is essential to create an innovation culture. We’re sharing tips for cultivating that innovation mindset within your team.

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Building an innovation process for an organization is kind of like doing a group project. Everyone comes together with different skill sets and backgrounds. A leader of the group pushes the team to complete tasks. And hopefully, no one is slacking off (though that’s not guaranteed).

The most important thing that can power up a group project is a good culture. In this article, we’re going to explain how a well-defined culture of innovation can create the best environment to improve the innovation process as a whole. 

What is a culture of innovation?

If you ask someone what a culture of innovation is, they might think about engineering labs or open-plan offices with a group of inventors trying to solve a problem together. And while that sounds cool, innovation culture is actually a bit more abstract than that.

A culture of innovation is an environment in which creativity and creative problem-solving are encouraged throughout the organization. It is a setting that fosters collaboration and encourages employees to think outside of the box when it comes to generating new ideas or solving existing problems. 

When a company embraces this culture, everyone has permission to experiment with innovation projects and make mistakes without fear of repercussion or punishment.

Why a culture of innovation can improve the innovation process 

Group of people brainstorming

An innovation culture has so much positive impact on the innovation process. 

1. Your team will collaborate as a given

The culture of innovation really confirms the saying, “There’s no I in Team.” When an organization fosters innovation as part of the culture, employees are more comfortable with working together instead of trying to compete against each other. They’re more likely to brainstorm ideas, share knowledge across different departments and create unique, innovative concepts.

2. The creative juices will keep flowing

Speaking of “unique,” the culture of innovation is especially useful for encouraging employees to think outside the box. When you work in any other kind of corporate culture, this experimental approach doesn’t always work - employees are often afraid to make mistakes or test something new. But in an innovation culture, workers always have some psychological safety to take risks, admit mistakes and learn from experiences. 

3. You save time and money

After reading the previous point, you might think that people in an environment that’s open to innovation don’t understand the value of budgeting, wasting time and money on useless experiments. But actually, it’s the opposite. Because people have the space to test things before they start working on a project, they can then invest the company’s resources in opportunities that have the most potential. 

It’s kind of how we do our innovation research at Upsiide. We believe that doing simple, inexpensive tests regularly is the best way to find winning ideas. We speak more about that in this blog post

4. You innovate faster

Finally, an innovation culture ultimately lets you launch innovations quicker than anyone else. When everyone in your company is encouraged to think outside the box, collaborate with each other, and play around with ideas - and these activities are applied and facilitated across the whole organization - they are more likely to produce innovations quickly. 

How to improve the innovation process with an innovation culture

Here are some of the ways we think organizations can foster a culture of innovation to streamline the innovation process.

Practice “framestorming” 

Human bias sometimes leads us to jump to solutions without properly framing the challenge, which can lead to an outcome that’s far from ideal. If you’ve been a part of a product team that routinely uses gut feelings to validate whether something is worth building,you should try this approach.

To practice “framestorming”, start by posing a challenge. Sometimes it’s referred to as a design brief, a design challenge or a problem definition. Now’s the fun bit; you ask this one simple question: “How Might We…?” 

These three little words set your team in a direction that is:

  • solution-oriented (How)

  • optimistic (Might)

  • collaborative (We)

And the best thing about framestorming is that, just like it should be in an innovation culture, every team needs to be involved in solving this question. It allows departments to think creatively and listen to each other’s views. Basically, the perfect exercise to kickstart the innovation process.

2. Work together (but alone)

We know - we said building an innovation process is like one big group project. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do EVERYTHING together. Sometimes, independent work can bring out the most interesting results. 

People can work on their own small tasks or test out different things in their own time. And in collaborative sessions, they can discuss the ideas they discovered independently and prioritize what has the most potential. 

Another benefit of working together (but alone) is that it removes the possibility of bias. In brainstorming, people tend to go with ideas that were talked about the loudest or choose concepts based on politics or hierarchy (you know, maybe you wouldn’t want to disagree with your boss). 

But when people have time to think by themselves and really hone their ideas, they are more likely to bring quality work to the table. 

3. Try S.C.A.M.P.E.R

This is something that we’ve used at Dig to make the innovation process a little more interesting. S.C.A.M.P.E.R. allows teams to approach innovation from different angles. Every step of S.C.A.M.P.E.R. stands for an activity that a team can do to find innovative solutions.

  • Substitute - come up with alternative solutions to the idea

  • Combine - think how ideas can be merged

  • Adapt - adjust or tweak ideas

  • Modify, maximize and minimize - can the idea’s elements be adjusted in size?

  • Put to another use - change the context in which the idea exists

  • Eliminate - remove an element to make the idea better

  • Reverse & rearrange - change the order of the idea’s elements

It’s a playful exercise that innovation teams can use to kickstart their innovation process. Whether a team is working on a product, service, flavor, message or creative, S.C.A.M.P.E.R. creates a framework for them to think outside the box and play with different variations easily.

4. Remove/Limit bureaucracy

Creativity and innovation can’t thrive when it’s micromanaged at every step. I mean, innovation by nature isn’t something that can be controlled - ideas come to you at the most unexpected times. 

Maybe you’re working on something that sparks a new idea, one that you can prove will have more of an impact on the business and revenue than those currently in development. The problem? It came to mind after those that are already in development, so you’ll need to wait. And while this might seem harmless, the waiting could very well mean a competitor beats you to it. 

That’s why we also think some traditional ways to manage the innovation process, like the stage-gate approach, have limitations. Check out this latest post to read more.

An efficient innovation process needs a well-built innovation culture.

While the tips that we’ve outlined are a great starting point for developing a well-oiled innovation process, we’d hate to make you think the process is easy (sorry!). It requires strong leadership and commitment from the rest of the team. If done properly, you can be sure that your business will stay ahead of the curve in the long term and deliver products/services that consumers actually need.