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How to determine if your company's culture supports innovation


Whether an organisation succeeds in today's fast-paced digital environment depends more on its ability to innovate and the skills of its employees than its tangible assets, as reported by ManpowerGroup in a press release to Human Resources. 

"Against a backdrop of constant change, innovating and adapting is a baseline expectation. Creating a culture of innovation is a critical investment for a company’s future," said Linda Teo, country manager of ManpowerGroup Singapore. 

ALSO READ: Does HR have a role to play in driving innovation in organisations?

Is your company ready for innovation? Here are nine characteristics that determine if your organisational culture supports innovation, as well as some actionable steps that you can take to push your company towards a innovation-ready future:

1. Trust

Trust is the safety net that gives permission to try something new, without knowing the outcome. On the other spectrum, distrust is a sign of dysfunction and disarray. Trust enables innovation by providing an atmosphere that allows and accounts for inevitable mistakes.

Actionable step: Leaders must be willing to allow those tasked with innovation to find creative solutions within the context of a broader transformation plan. Credible leaders articulate that plan clearly and provide the framework for innovation to take place.

2. Curiosity

Curiosity is the lifeblood of creativity. To build a culture of innovation, organisations should create a climate that nurtures critical thinking, where challenging authority and speaking up are encouraged, even if it means creating discord.

Actionable step: Leaders’ behaviours have a strong influence on the behaviour and performance of their teams. Moreover, the more senior the leaders are, the more impactful their behaviours will be on the rest of the organisation. To nurture curiosity, leaders should practice what they preach and display their own learning to demonstrate how they unlock their curiosity.

3. Experimentation

Humans are natural experimenters – we practice, succeed, fail and then experiment again. Organisations succeed when they keep experimenting while focusing on the horizon as the dynamic environment continuously changes.

Actionable step: Gather feedback from consumers, employees, investors, competitors and even machines and systems to inform new approaches. Carve out time in product and process life cycles to iterate, try new approaches and learn.

4. Persistence

Being tenacious, steadfast and entrepreneurial will help an organisation persist when roadblocks arrive. Successful organisations provide support, guides and adapts as issues arise and do not give up in the face of adversity.

Actionable step: Innovative organisations expect hurdles on their route. Embrace change and ambiguity, build time in the work process to examine difficulties. In flexibility and agility, opportunity is often found.

5. Grit

The secret to outstanding achievement is not talent alone, but a blend of direction, determination and passion called grit. People with grit show courage, strength of character and resolve during inevitable difficulties, making this a key differentiator in today’s marketplace.

Actionable step: Leaders should lead their companies with character to develop a culture with grit. When a successful leader makes mistakes or experiences failure, they accept responsibility and learn the lessons so as not to repeat them. They acknowledge failure, seek ways to mitigate fallout and avoid pointing fingers or blaming others.

6. Collectiveness

Anything of value happens as the result of team effort, where people set aside their own interests to achieve something collectively that they could not achieve by themselves. A more effective approach than focusing on an individual's functional role focuses as much on traits and tendencies as on their skills.

Actionable step: Consider the two roles every person plays in a working group: a functional role, based on their formal position and technical skill, and a psychological role, based on the kind of person they are. Observing the balance of roles in a team offers insight into its dynamics, and also indicates the likelihood of success or failure for an assigned task.

7. Diversity

Diversity of thought leads to better decision-making and better results; for innovation to happen you need diverse perspectives to navigate a rapidly evolving world. Old assumptions can be dangerous to the long-term health of the business. Instead of focusing on addressing bias, organisations should turn their attention to conscious inclusion to ensure that everyone feels invited in and their potential is valued.

Actionable step: Organizations must go beyond programmes and put words into action. While the CEO needs to own it to create systemic change, HR leaders can all start doing something different today. Change can come from individuals. Ask yourself: What will you commit to make change happen? Answering this question itself steps you on the right path to evoking change.

8. Communication

Successful innovation should be driven by a clear vision and purpose. Leaders should articulate this openly and regularly to set the parameters for new ideas. Having great communication also means sharing ideas and understanding opposing viewpoints.

Actionable step: Clearly articulate what innovation means to the organization, the vision and the purpose of the company. Encourage open networks and feedback loops marked by candor and constructiveness.

9. Learnability

In the digital age, new skills emerge as fast as others become obsolete. Half of today’s most in-demand skills were not on the list three years ago. This puts a premium on learnability, the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable. What you know is less relevant than what you may learn and knowing the answer to questions is less critical than having the ability to ask the right questions in the first place.

Actionable step: Hire people with high learnability. Too often HR leaders focus on training and development while undermining the importance of proper selection. However, it is easier to prevent and predict than to fix and change. Good selection makes training and development more effective because it is easier to augment potential.

ALSO READ: Top 5 traits Singaporean ICM professionals want in company culture

Establishing a culture of innovation may have differing degrees of speed depending on the organisation and the industry. Nonetheless, investing in innovation and culture as an inextricable pair will prepare any organisation for its digital future, and if done well, the return can be significant and swift.


Infographic and photo / ManpowerGroup

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