Building a culture of innovation in a large enterprise

By Janeiro Digital on Mar 21

There’s a well-documented need to innovate in your organization in order to stay competitive. We’ve written about it and so have many others. Embracing an innovation mindset doesn’t always come easy, though, and even if it does it often arrives in fits and starts or misses the mark.

Two common traits that can make it difficult for some organizations to properly adopt innovation into their habits and culture are fear of the unknown and following trends for the sake of being trendy. Both of these issues are essentially opposite points of the same scale.

If your organization is risk-averse, the uncertainty that comes with experimentation and innovation can paralyze you to the point of inaction. When you’re not able to open yourself to the transformation your business needs or you’re too entrenched in legacy approaches, you’re more likely to be drawn to safe or well-defined projects that carry little risk.

It can be common to look at a longer-term roadmap and move forward with only the work that feels comfortable, familiar, or seems to have expected and achievable outcomes. In this type of a culture, the more exploratory initiatives get consistently deprioritized until they eventually slip into backlog purgatory.

On the other end of the spectrum is complete and unabashed openness to new trends, which can be a risk in its own way. If you’re too eager to jump on fresh initiatives because they seem more interesting than what you’re used to, you may lose focus or neglect the core practices that keep your organization humming.

Be strategic and iterative in your innovation

Many organizations make the mistake of problem-solving with only fresh ideas and new perspective because those feel like hip new things. Disruptive and transformational initiatives are more likely to draw exponentially more attention and praise than decidedly unsexy maintenance projects. That promise of attention and spotlight can be it’s own enticement to weight the decision-making process towards the new-shiny.

Legacy habits and systems that are deeply entrenched in your organization might not be completely broken but there may be flawed components nested within them. One way to ease your organization towards a more modern mindset is to begin applying fresh problem-solving to address those trouble spots first.

Identify the areas of your existing business that could benefit from a fresh influx of ideas and innovate there. Start small and learn from each of your experiments to inform the next block of work. Once you’ve shown some success and the business has started to feel the effects, pick the next target. Then do it again. And again. Solve a few of the small issues that have been hindering the business and build momentum from those projects to move on to more.

Along the way, innovate with a purpose and always keep in mind the business needs that inspired your new problem-solving. When you innovate with intention, you’ll be more likely to drive big change for the digital business of your organization.

Give yourself permission to experiment and fail

In traditional organizations that haven’t yet embraced digital transformation as a core part of their business objectives, there is no culture of innovation. They’ve been operating the same way for many years and there is often pressure to keep the boat from rocking. The organization has not been given the permission needed to experiment, take risks, and potentially fail. As a result, they’re general averse to any project that could be seen as a risky.

In these cultures, it can be helpful to bring in a third party partner to help mitigate some of the political challenges and unstick the resistance to change or differences in priorities. A talented digital services provider can help lead the way from a position of impartiality and foster a dialogue that gets all stakeholders on the same page much more easily.

As you’re beginning to problem-solve for your next initiative, take a look at the broad world of available technology. There are many off-the-shelf options available that may work just as there are solutions that don’t exist yet but are coming or could be custom-built for your organization.

Select the most likely route that addresses your needs, but avoid the pitfall of innovating for innovation’s sake. Instead, identify your perfect scenario and design a path to get there that’s both innovative and strategic for the business.

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