Are You Breeding a Culture of Innovation?


This is Part II to last week’s blog. I want to explore the findings from the Economist Intelligence Unit report a little further.

As organizations grow, they inevitably become more highly structured, a change that can smother innovation. One way to promote it is through cross-functional collaboration. Too often, we separate ourselves from one another. Even in learning, we segregate courses according to department, role or level. But what would happen if we provided a forum for people to cross these borders? How does your learning organization promote this type of collaboration? And if it doesn’t, is that stifling innovation?!@!

As a journalist, sometimes I cover topics that I’m not well-versed in. But to me, that’s a good thing because I can look at the topic afresh. I can ask questions that others who are more enmeshed may not think of.

The same rings true in your organization. Your executives may be facing a high-level strategic issue, and they are so involved in it they may not be able to take a step back and look at it in a different light. But I guarantee that there are plenty of other employees throughout the organization who may be able to find a better solution because they have that different perspective.

As reader Helen Whelan said in response to last week’s post, risk and failure are also essential components of innovation. If your employees can’t take a risk and fall down in the process, then there will always be the fear of failure hanging over their heads, and that fear will ultimately suffocate innovation. Is your organization one that’s tolerant of mistakes? Are mistakes viewed as a learning opportunity?

Respondents in the Economist Intelligence Unit report also said getting innovative ideas is hard, but adopting them is even harder. The greatest barriers to adopting innovation are resistance to change, shifting strategic priorities and a lack of project ownership.

In some organizations, change management falls to the learning arm. If this is true at your organization, learning is at a great crossroads to breed and own innovation. First, you can put structures in place to gather ideas and then facilitate the discussion, development and adoption of those ideas.