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How to enable a culture of innovation


Stock photo

Stock photo

Stock photo

Businesses everywhere have faced considerable challenges over the last few years. Not least the global pandemic, which has had a lasting impact on the way we work.

More recently, skills shortages and inflation have begun to affect organisations, presenting real threats to potential growth plans.

To maintain competitiveness, evolve and grow - all while managing their day-to-day, businesses need to look toward innovation.

Innovation has become the mantra for many businesses already, and the benefits for organisations that adopt this approach have been evident over recent years, particularly during the pandemic and various lockdowns.

And while the concept of innovation is simply a process of focused change and putting creative ideas into effective use, some organisations still fail to realise this opportunity.

But why?

Largely, organisations do not embrace innovation because of a fear of failure, resistance to change, aversion to risk taking or a lack of support for creating a culture of innovation.

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So how can an organisation become more innovative? It is not as simple as asking employees to contribute better ideas, creating an innovation strategy or deploying a new system.

To embrace innovation, it is necessary to check your organisation’s internal ecosystem is ready. Moreover, you must be prepared that, as with any cultural change, it will not happen overnight.

So how can you begin to build a culture of innovation and move away from the ‘that’s the way we always do it’ attitude?

Here are three key areas that organisations should focus on to develop their innovation culture:

First, have a clear and strategic rationale for innovation that generates employee buy-in. To do this, businesses need to understand where they are now and where they want to be in the future.

Understanding the current areas of strength and weakness, and getting a sense of staff appetite for innovation, will help guide organisations on how to promote this cultural shift.

Second, lead by example. To foster and fuel innovation at an individual and team level, it needs to be visibly embraced and actioned by leadership. Leadership is responsible for creating and aligning teams with a culture that is open, collaborative and focused on continuous improvement.

Appreciate that innovation will require new behaviours, skills and knowledge, so organisations should support their people with the training and resources they need to embrace innovation at all levels.

Finally, empower employees. Key decision-makers are busy running the business, so they should enable the teams below to help drive innovation. Employees at all levels can see opportunities in their areas that others will miss.

Staff should be given permission and feel empowered to challenge the norm, and the confidence to fail, learn and improve within clearly defined parameters.

In these uncertain times, taking a risk feels counterintuitive.

However, to quote Bene Brown, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

Instead of fearing vulnerability, businesses should aim to get comfortable with failing fast, learning and improving, ultimately allowing them to innovate, thrive and survive in challenging times.

For further information or advice, Katie Scott can be contacted at katie.scott@ie.gt.com

Grant Thornton (NI) LLP specialises in audit, tax and advisory services.

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