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Come on, let the good ideas roll: Here are 5 ways to create a culture of innovation

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Innovation has been the buzzword in Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull late announced a massive $1 billion innovation package for the country late last year.

In its innovation statement, the Turnbull Government outlined a series of new innovation policies around accelerator support, tax breaks, entrepreneurial visas and STEM initiatives to help boost start-up and entrepreneurial activity in Australia.

Building a culture of innovation is hard work. However, the scientific research into how to create a culture where innovation thrives is both plentiful and precise. Following are five of the most impactful drivers of an innovation culture.

1. Challenge – and finding the right level of it

Research has shown that feeling a strong sense of challenge in one’s work is a critical driver of innovation. Challenge refers to people working on tasks that are complex and interesting – yet at the same time not overly taxing or unduly overwhelming.

It is important that you don’t simply think about how to give people (including yourself!) the biggest possible challenge. Instead you should ensure that the level of challenge you set is one that is achievable. On the flip side, don’t set tasks that people can complete with their eyes closed.

2. Taking risk – and not seeing failure as a dirty word

The notion of failure being unacceptable is one I have found resonates with many organisations. Failure is generally thought of as a dirty word, and something that gets swept under the carpet when it does rear its ugly head. But being able to acknowledge and learn from failure is a huge part of building a culture where risk-taking is tolerated and where innovation can thrive.

As a leader, think about ways you can signal that risk-taking is an acceptable part of business. Talk openly about failures and what can be learnt from them with your team.

3. Experimentation before implementation

When thinking about how your company approaches innovation, ensure that experimentation is a mandatory step. Rather than just going straight from idea to implementation, you should first run experiments. This involves setting hypotheses as to why you believe an idea will add value to the customer and creating a minimum viable product (MVP) – the most basic version of the idea that will still allow for learnings.

You can then set up an experiment to test your hypotheses using the MVP and based on the results, iterate or change course accordingly. Experimentation is a very effective way to help reduce the risk of new innovations.

4. Autonomy – loosening the reigns

Many researchers have found that creativity is dramatically enhanced when people are given the freedom to decide how they do their jobs.

When people feel as if they have choice in how things can be done they are significantly more likely to engage in trial and error and, through this, find more effective ways of doing things. Just be sure to set clear goals, as the autonomy effect is strongest when people are clear on what you want them to achieve.

5. Debate – and welcoming all views

One of the factors that has been identified as critical for creating a culture where innovation thrives is ensuring that different points of view are encouraged and that ideas are regularly debated. Lead by example and encourage others to debate and discuss ideas that you bring to the table- actively encouraging different view points will strengthen your innovations significantly.

In addition, avoid the temptation to recruit people who are just like you- doing so will only discourage debate and encourage homogeneity of thinking.

Dr. Amantha Imber is the Founder of Inventium (www.inventium.com.au), Australia’s leading innovation consultancy. Her latest book, The Innovation Formula, tackles the topic of how organisations can create a culture where innovation thrives. Amantha can be contacted at [email protected]

Amantha Imber

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