10 Practices from the Most Innovative Organizations

10 Practices from the Most Innovative Organizations

Business April 23, 2013 / By David Burkus
10 Practices from the Most Innovative Organizations

The most innovative companies really do think differently, here's how they develop a culture of creativity.

Innovation means more than just new products or services. It means improving the process of creating those products, or selling them, or experiencing them, or even improving the ways we manage the people who do all of the above. Perhaps my favorite definition of innovation is Scott Berkun’s: “Innovation is significant positive change.” That change can apply to products and processes, or it can apply to people.

Recently, the Institute for Corporate Productivity published a study surveying some of the top companies and people in the fields of management and innovation. They examined some of the best people management practices at organizations known for innovation and found several ways that those companies develop and manage their human capital. In summarizing their findings, here are 10 human capital practices that drive innovation:

  1.  Use Technology to Collaborate and Share Knowledge. Collaboration drives creativity and innovation, and social media and conferencing technologies can help bring people together (or virtually together) more often for that collaboration.
  2.  Promote Innovation as an Organizational Value. The most innovative companies didn’t just luck into hiring creative people; they placed creative and even average people into creative cultures.
  3.  Include Innovation as a Leadership Development Competency. Part of building an innovative culture is having leaders who value creativity, and are creative themselves.
  4.  Tie Compensation to Innovation. The jury is still deliberating the influence of incentives on creativity, but their use in organizations sends a signal that innovation is valued. That signal is an important part of culture building.
  5.  Develop an “Idea-finding” Program. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, it’s not enough to have great ideas. Innovative companies build a system that taps into the collective knowledge of everyone and lets everyone promote good ideas.
  6.  Fund Outside Projects. It might sound counterintuitive to allow funding to develop projects that are technically outside your organization, but as market boundaries continue to blur, strategic innovation partnerships become even more important.
  7.  Train for Creativity. Creativity isn’t innate. Creative thinking skills can be developed and the most innovative companies fund training programs to develop them.
  8.  Create a Review Process for Innovative Ideas. Even the best ideas don’t come fully formed. There is a process to refining, developing and identifying the ideas with the most market potential. Creating a review process allows this to happen and signals that innovative ideas are valued.
  9.  Recruit for Creative Talent. Especially at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The war for talent is slowing shifting its focus from quantitative minds to creative ones.
  10.  Reward Innovation with Engaging Work. Research demonstrates that companies that are able to identify their most creative employees can enhance their creative ability by providing them autonomy to work on projects that are naturally interesting to them.

These ten practices might not be a prescription for how to shift a stuck culture to a creative one, but they are a good start. Consistently innovative companies are engaged in some or all of these practices. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at your own firm and see how many you’re engaged in.

[This post originally appeared on LDRLB.]

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