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Innovate smarter means culture

smartangle newsletter · Mar 2021

A recent discussion on LinkedIn redraws innovation focus on the internal company culture. Innovation is a state of mind, I wrote some time ago, it is still super-valid.

Some days ago, I happened to being caught into a discussion on LinkedIn about how to help SMEs in leveraging their intangible assets to innovate smarter.

The author of this post just argued on what is the best way to help SMEs to exploit their intangible assets: know-how, competencies, flexibility, customisation and expertise. Well, apparently many SMEs have issues with innovation, and how to drive activities to improve and growth.

I stepped in because, as many of you already know, such arguments are very close to my heart. My point was to do even a further step back, and try to analyse why such SMEs are struggling.

SMEs are struggling because of the lack of innovation culture!

On my opinion, this is the most important and essential asset that a company shall (and not should) have in order to #innovatesmarter. There’s no other. I mean, it is definitely important to have any other asset to complete the full overview of competencies, but without an innovation culture there is no way out.

We all know the very famous quote of Peter Drucker:

“culture eats strategy for breakfast”

and in this very wise sentence there is all the essence on what I was trying to say.

Without an innovation culture, it is quite hard to keep innovating, generating new ideas, or new solutions to problems. No matter how good is your product, and how well you can improve it. You will always have a limited growth when you are not able to keep stimulating something new and innovative.

I wrote about some ways to set up this internal culture (in this article in Italian), and I am sure there are plenty of additional best practices to use as benchmarks.

Anyway, the best way to understand if you have such culture, always on my opinion, is to start with a very few questions, and take it from there to identify if there are any further white spots to point out.

Two ways process

Does your company have a two ways process? I mean is there any process (or guideline, or procedure) that is helping ideas flow from bottom-up and top-down? If not, this is the first way to ensure that no good idea will be scrapped because of a lack of outreach to the management, or the other way around (from management to operational workforce).

Time to innovate

Does your company give time to spend on innovative projects? By this, I mean the time that each employee could spend on his/her idea, in order to bring it to you and show that it could work.

This time is needed to conceptualise what the idea sparked, and it is a well spent time, because in this way, employees will come with a more thorough concept on what a new product could look like, how they will change it, or how the service will be offered to the customer.

In some companies there is this nice practice called “Friday afternoon”, maybe it is worth to google it.

Trial & Error

Does your company allow trials, and of course, errors? This is crucial, since there is no innovation without trials and errors. Making mistakes is an essential part of the innovation journey, so you cannot afford to reach the next blockbuster product/service, if you are not stumbling on the way.

If your company blames errors, you could never expect innovation, even when it is top down. You need to allow people to make mistakes, and foster them to learn and do better. It is part of the game.

This is just a first quick and dirty round to check if you have established a culture of innovation within your company, if one of your replies is negative, well you have work to do. And if you need a hand, we are here to support.