My friend Robert Tucker over at the Innovation Resource has some thoughts on cultivating culture, something I’ve learned a lot about as the business climate and model has changed over the decades. What have you learned?
A decade ago, cultivating a culture of innovation was a “nice to do” activity. Today it is becoming a “must do” discipline for organizations that want to be around tomorrow. Here are six essential steps to cultivating an innovation culture:
1. Understand what an innovation culture is, and why it’s essential to work on improving it. Culture refers to the values, unspoken rules and subtle cues that guide people’s behavior and suggests how they should act within your environment to be effective. Culture is heavily influenced by an organization’s leadership. If risk-adverse, just-make-your-numbers behavior is rewarded by leadership, this message cascades to the far reaches of the company. But when a disruption starts to occur, the culture will ignore it or deny its existence until it becomes a full-blown crisis. By then it may be too late. Unless you’re working constantly to improve your culture, it will inevitably veer toward the kinds of behavior that Nokia’s high potentials revealed.
Before you start trying to improve your culture, you must first figure out what behaviors your organization genuinely rewards and sanctions. Then ask: is this the type of behavior that will help us meet the goals we’ve set and the market challenges we face? My strong suggestion is that leadership must spell out the behaviors you want more of, and catch people exhibiting them, and reward them in every way. Reward the mid-manager who emails the chief a disturbing story from the front lines where your product was no longer competitive. Compliment the millennial generation employee who speaks up in the meeting and asks an assumption-assaulting question. Laud the salesperson that rents the truck and drives through the night to personally deliver the customer’s order after a snafu. Reward the receptionist who contributes the most ideas to your Innovation Portal. Share stories that illustrate the desired behaviors, and make these people heroes. Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.
2. Put somebody in charge of cultivating the culture. Studies by Booz & Company show that companies with “highly aligned innovation strategies and highly aligned cultures generate 30 percent higher enterprise value growth and 17 percent profit growth.” All well and good, but in most companies, nobody is in charge of creating and maintaining an innovation culture, much less in aligning it with an the organization’s strategy. It is a colossal mistake to assume that the human resources department, just because it is in charge of people, should perform this role. My experience is that they are ill-suited for this role. Instead, I have long advocated a systematic approach to innovation whereby innovation strategy and culture alignment become the responsibility of the firm’s chief innovation officer.
3. Periodically assess the climate for innovation. There are a lot of things a company can do for itself, but understanding your culture’s strengths and weaknesses is not one of them. “There’s a rumor around here that we punished someone for failure,” said the division chief of a major chipmaker. “But we don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.” Surveying employee engagement has become commonplace in recent years, but a workforce can be engaged and still be anti-innovation and risk-adverse. Climate surveys enable you to objectively assess such cultural essentials as: the level of trust people feel towards each other and towards management; amount of collaboration across functions and silos; receptivity to new ideas; availability of resources among other attributes. Pay attention to gaps that exist between where people rate your company on an attribute, and how important they judge that trait to be. And make sure to contrast your company’s results with how a sample of other innovation Best Practice companies perform on these attributes before you seriously start thinking of launching a company-wide innovation initiative. The value of periodic assessment is that it gives you an objective pulse of how your people are feeling about the climate for innovation today, and enables you to gauge progress in your journey to cultivate a more open climate.
4. Make innovation a part of everybody’s job. Until recently, innovation was considered the responsibility of the R&D department, new product development, or the marketing team. Few companies included mention of creative initiative when assessing individual performance. Today more and more firms expect employees to operate from the principle that innovation is not what you do after you get your work done, it’s how you approach your work day-to-day. There’s growing recognition that a firm’s next breakthrough might arise from the supply chain arena, from a new manufacturing method, from entering a new market or championing a new business model. Progressive companies are training their high potential contributors not only to meet their numbers and be operationally excellent, but in the mindset, skillset and toolset of innovation. Some are even creating early warning systems to apprise them of asymmetrical threats such as Nokia faced. In our two day master classes for standout managers, topics include: How to spot opportunities in changing customer requirements; disrupt or be disrupted; how to lead change initiatives: how to sell new ideas up, down and sideways; and how to set expectations in the case of high-risk ventures or business models. Experience in this realm is becoming the biggest resume-builder, rather than avoiding high profile but “risky” projects.
5. Incentivize and reward broad-based innovative thinking. Why would anybody in their right mind volunteer to work extra hard to bring an idea to life if the result might be getting fired if things don’t work out as planned? The risks must always be born by the organization, and not the individuals involved. My experience is that in the vast majority of organizations there are abundant disincentives, but few incentives strong enough to encourage people to take risks. Recognition via salary increases and promotions are not usually enough to change behavior day to day. To change behavior, change the rewards, dinner for two to a nice restaurant, a bit of time off after completion of a major task, a handwritten note from the chief.
6. Improve the work environment. Innovate solutions to things in the office that waste people’s time. Eliminate policies and procedures that annoy people. Pay attention to enhancing the physical environment. Install white boards in all conference rooms. Hold meetings to exchange information, and brainstorming sessions to surface new possibilities. Set the example. Seek constructive feedback on your performance from the people who report to you. Ask continuously: how can I improve? Do you feel I am listening to you? Focus on improving communication skills. Change meetings by encouraging people to ask different questions. Invite people to think big. Say something like, “Guys, I think we’re getting in the weeds here. Reframe the question. During one brainstorming session with a client, the question “how can we increase productivity” got few responses. But when the question was changed to: “how can we make your job easier” ideas poured forth. If one of your top barriers is “lack of time to think” plan a “No Meetings Friday” and invite people to use the day to think up new ideas. Give out an award for the best ideas received.
Here is an article titled, 6 tech trends for 2015 that will change our future, in which TechCrunch made predictions about Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, robots, nanotechnology, energy and flexible gadgets and displays. But have these tech trends really changed our futures?
When I share trends about innovation, particularly sustainable innovation, I want to make sure that there are multiple elements shared across platforms like completion, crowdsourcing, crowd-funding and opening-up patents.
What are your thoughts on trends and predictions?
Will solar and wind rush in to replace fossil fuels?
Big changes are afoot for the energy sector in the next 25 years. Coal and gas are headed out and solar and wind are rushing to take their place on a multi-trillion dollar investment bonanza, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance that scopes out the power generating landscape through 2040.
The main reason for the big shift in power generation isn’t likely to be because of a grand climate agreement, national polices or carbon pricing scheme, though. Instead, it comes down to cold, hard cash with renewables offering more power-generating bang for the buck than fossil fuels. Here are the three big numbers.
- The world will invest $12.2 trillionin new power generation
Since 2004, renewable energy investments have risen from $43 billion to $270 billion annually. In 2014, most of that money went to China, a pattern that’s expected to continue through 2040.
The world will spend a combined $12.2 trillion on new power-generating capacity over the next 25 years. The majority of that—two-thirds to be exact—will go to renewables like wind and solar thanks to falling costs. An estimated $3.7 trillion alone will go into both rooftop and utility-scale solar making it the biggest growing facet of the power-generating system globally.
This is an Op-ed story from USA Today that caught my eye for a number of reasons. Yes, deep budget cuts will always impact research and development projects, whether at the federal level or in your own company. Scientific discovery isn’t free most of the time. Secondly, this piece contains a lot of interesting links and statistics that you might find helpful and interesting.
The author contends that Innovation and economic vibrancy lose out when Congress skimps on scientific research. What are your thoughts?
New science is the closest thing to magic needed to solve seemingly intractable problems in every domain from medicine and manufacturing to energy and the environment.
The U.S. is number one in global spending on research and development — for now. That leadership is rapidly eroding: In other countries, unlike here, spending (as a share of GDP) is holding steady, or even rising in places like South Korea, Australia and China. And, more critically, U.S. spending on basic research — the seed corn of the future — is retreating faster.
Economist Robert Solow won the 1987 Nobel Prize for proving what many already knew intuitively: technology innovation is the engine of economic growth and brings huge societal benefits.(search technology remains”) In fact, economic historian Joel Mokyr has called technology progress the only true “free lunch” in public policy: with innovation, society gets back far more than it pays out. And basic research is the foundation.
But in today’s budget battles in Washington D.C., policymakers and bureaucrats are more focused than ever on “useful” science. The problem is that foundational innovation is rarely obvious in advance to anyone, much less to those inside the Beltway. The demand that research be “useful” is, ironically, antithetical to what ultimately yields some of the world’s most useful productive advances.
Accordingly, here are five facts Congress should keep in mind when thinking about funding American science.
1. The federal government funds over 90 percent of all basic research— the pursuit of knowledge. That makes sense. Corporations are near-term focused and pursue industrial research for visible profits; even Google’s “long term” looks out at most five to 10 years for profitability . The government should fund long-term science and resist the temptation and lobbying to spend on industrial-class projects. Leave industry to industry which has both the money and appetite.
2. Nearly 90% of federal R&D money is controlled by just five of the 29 civilian government research agencies. Congress should increase the diversity of authority and spread money and decision-making out among more agencies. The future is far too uncertain for science’s promise to rest in the hands of so few. Moreover — and more radically — funding authority should be shifted largely to the hundreds of research universities themselves where the work actually happens.
3. Federal research money increasingly goes to old guys and gals. The share of National Institute of Health grants awarded to researchers over 60 years old is greater than for those under 40. This stems from bureaucratic risk aversion and is antithetical to creativity. The fix? Trust. Again, let the research universities identify the talent. It’s not that university managers are inherently more honest or egalitarian than their federal counterparts — though, as a minimum, concentration of the power-of-the-purse does create perverse incentives — it’s just that there are many more of the former, and they are on the front lines. Proximity and diversity of decision-making are our friends here. Analogies are imperfect, but one cannot imagine letting a few federal agencies make the hiring decisions for every local school.
4. A rising tide of regulations is crushing scientists and wasting taxpayer money. The government’s own surveys show that researchers waste nearly half their time on administrative tasks. That’s nuts. To ensure accountability, surely 21st century software can be designed to Uber-ize unproductive bureaucratic drudgery.
5. Some good news: philanthropy is now the fastest-growing funding source for university research constituting nearly 30% of total budgets. Congress should increase incentives for philanthropic — and private corporate — spending here. How about an enhanced tax credit for undirected funding of basic research?
What’s more, polls — which we know influence politicians — show that over 80% of the public supports government funding of R&D, even in our budget-constrained times.
We should keep in mind the law formulated by mathematician, physicist, writer and futurist, Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Mark P. Mills, Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow, is author of Basic Research and the Innovation Frontier.
I fly a lot, and this story is an incredible testimony to what is already possible through solar power!It’s not without risk though. Storms, wind and other elements could easily brew up danger for the pilot and passengers.
Click on this image to read the story:
I often lead brainstorming sessions in which we glean some fantastic new ways of discovering solutions. But in some meetings, you might find it difficult to get people to share. Could it be from fear, or something else? A look at the corporate culture might offer some clues! But in the meantime, here is an interesting thought from the folks at Fast Company:
We’ve all been in that brainstorming meeting: the one where you could hear a pin drop, and the white board of “great ideas” remains blank. It’s awkward for participants and downright excruciating for the person leading the meeting.
Psychologist Art Markman helps us figure out how to get people talking:
I manage around 50 employees in a creative industry. The people I work with are very hardworking, smart, and creative. Yet whenever I try to get them to brainstorm in meetings: crickets. Any suggestions for methods to get the conversation and ideas flowing?
Tired of Crickets
I sympathize. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to get your group to generate great ideas and ending up with a room full of people staring at their shoes.
I want to address this question in two parts. First, let’s try to figure out some of the things that might keep people from speaking up. Once you figure that out, you can try some methods to get people talking.
Who are the most innovative leaders creating green solutions that are sustainable? I found this list of 20 interesting Eco Innovators from Food Tank:
Jamila Abass—Abass is co-founder of M-Farm, a technology tool for smallholder farmers to receive information on the retail price of their products in Kenya. Farmers use SMS to buy farm inputs from manufacturers and connect to markets. The tool is innovating the way farmers access information and bring products to the marketplace.
Will Allen—Former professional basketball player, Allen, grew up on a small farm in Maryland where developed roots in farming. After returning to the United States from Belgium, Allen founded Growing Power Inc., a nonprofit organization for urban agriculture and community building. He is an innovator in methods of composting, vermicomposting, and aquaponics. Using these practices he has increased yields in urban growing spaces.
Bruno Follador—Follador is a geographer, biodynamic researcher, and specialist in biodynamic composting and chromatography. A native of San Paolo, Brazil, her first encountered biodynamics at the age of 18. According to Follador, educating and helping eaters to become conscious of their responsibility in a biodynamic system is one of the best ways to heal the food system. His work focuses on life processes and actively improving the health of farms.
Eric Holt-Giménez—An author, lecturer, agroecologist, and food system researcher, Holt-Giménez has been a vocal advocate for campesinos (peasant farmworkers) and a champion of el Movimiento Campesino a Campesino (the Farmer to Farmer Movement). The movement has now spread across Latin America with hundreds of thousands of practicing farmers in over a dozen countries.
John Georges—Georges is an entrepreneur and inventor from Arcadia, Florida. He has taken the challenges growers and farmers face in agricultural irrigation and invented a sustainable and cost effective solution. His product Tree T Pee stimulates root growth, protects trees from frost and reduces fuel, herbicide and fertilizer use, while conserving water in a major way.
Ernst Gotsch—Gotsch developed complex crop systems in the 1970s by experimenting with multi-species consortia, such as planting corn with beans or apples with cherries in Germany and Switzerland. His methods restore degraded soils, produce high yields, and eliminate the use of pesticides. “We should combine the present with the future. It must be economically viable for the present and for the future,” said Gotsch. Currently, Gotsch is developing agroecological practices in Brazil at Fazenda da Toca.
Stephanie Hanson—Hanson has been the Director of Policy and Outreach at One Acre Fund since 2009, which provides smallholder farmers in Africa with support, inputs, and training, with the goal of doubling agricultural production on each acre of smallholder farmland.
Selina Juul—Danish food waste expert, Juul, founded The Stop Wasting Food (SWF) movement in 2008 and it is now the largest consumer organization fighting against food waste in Denmark. With more than 18,000 publications and thousands of supporters, Juul is inspiring business like Rema 1000 to reduce the price of food items past sell-by dates instead of throwing them out. An analysis by TNS Gallup for Agriculture showed that in 2013 half of Danes have reduced their food waste.
Byung Soo Kim—Kim pioneered organic farming in South Korea, he started with just 20 chickens and now has more than 4,000. Active in developing co-ops, Slow Food South Korea, Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), and spreading organic farming methods, Kim has empowered others to become interested in organic farming where it previously didn’t exist.
Federica Marra—Winner of the 2012 Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Young Earth Solutions competition in Italy, Marra created Manna From Our Roofs, an innovative organization that engages young people across the world in food cultivation, preservation, and education.
Pashon Murray—Murray is creating a more sustainable, less wasteful world in Detroit, MI. She is the owner and co-founder of Detroit Dirt, a business that takes food scraps from restaurants, cafeteria, and the Detroit Zoo and turns it into nutrient-rich compost. She is also working with the Idea Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to optimize soil by creating blends for specific growing purposes.
Gary Paul Nabhan—Advocate, writer, and conservationist Nabhan has been honored as a pioneer and creative force in the food movement by The New York Times, TIME magazine, and more. He works with students, academics, and nonprofit to build a climate resilient food shed that covers the United States-Mexico border. Nabhan was one of the first researchers to promote using native foods to prevent diabetes and his accomplishments were featured in Food Tank’s recent short documentary, “A Man in the Maze.”
Nora Pouillon—Pouillon is a pioneer and champion of organic, environmentally conscious cuisine. She opened Restaurant Nora in 1979 and worked with farmers to supply the restaurant with seasonal organic produce. In 1999, Restaurant Nora became the first certified organic restaurant in the United States, a feat accomplished by few since.
Florence Reed—Inspired after serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama, Reed founded Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) which combats the tropical deforestation crisis in Central America. SHI provides poor farmers with sustainable alternatives to agriculture that do not degrade the environment.
Joel Salatin—A third generation alternative farmer in Virginia, Salatin returned to the farm in 1982, it currently serves more than 5,000 families, 10 retail outlets, and 50 restaurants with beef, poultry, eggs, pork, foraged-based rabbits, turkey, and forestry products. Salatin presents alternatives to conventional food production and inspires his audiences to connect with local food producers.
Sara Scherr—Scherr is the Founder and President of EcoAgriculture Partners, a nonprofit that works with agricultural communities around the world to develop ecoagriculture landscapes that enhance rural livelihoods, have sustainable and productive agricultural systems, and conserve or enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Coach Mark Smallwood—Smallwood is executive director of Rodale Institute, based in Pennsylvania, which has pioneered the organic movement through its research, education and outreach since 1947. Their Farming Systems Trial is the longest running side by side comparison of organic and chemical farming approaches. Through Rodale, Smallwood, demonstrated that yields are the same in the long term, with organic yielding 30 percent higher than chemical in years of drought.
Amber Stott—Stott is on a mission to inspire kids to eat their vegetables in California. After realizing the critical need for knowledge of real food, she founded the Food Literacy Center, a community food education center focused on creating change for a healthier, more sustainable future. After three month of food literacy education, 92 percent of child participants said healthy food tastes good.
Martha Mwasu Waziri—Winner of Oxfam International’s 2012 Female Food Hero contest in Tanzania, Waziri, from the Dodoma Region, reclaimed 18 acres of land that had been eroded by a river using environmentally safe practices. It is now used as productive farmland.
Kanthi Wijekoon—A hero to other women, Wijekoon was arrested while she was trying to escape Sri Lanka to find a better life for her family. The Rural Women’s Front helped her get out of jail and she went on to lead programs reaching more than 600 women a year, increasing daily wages for women rice farmers.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to sit on a judging panel for Velocity Academy with Alex Tyink, Program Leader for Goodwill Grows. Velocity Academy is a project-based learning program at Shattuck Middle School in Neenah, designed to engage students who have a difficult time in regular classrooms.
Alex was working with the students on a garden project. I was impressed with this young man and his passion for indoor farming. Since that time, I’ve had an opportunity to learn a little bit more about Alex and one of his passions, growing plants with hydroponics. Through trial-and-error Alex has developed a patent-pending hydroponic Indoor Farming System that grows plants in air. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water sans soil.
Alex worked with Bassett Mechanical, a local full service mechanical contractor, to build a prototype made of stainless steel. Plants are gravity-fed water in a unit that stands 5 feet tall and has a grow light in the center. The unit itself fits in a space of about 12 square feet. Alex’s system is able to grow a crop in approximately 30 days. Bassett Mechanical donated the prototype unit that now sits at Goodwill of North Central Wisconsin office in Menasha.
Alex started a small consulting company called Fork Farms to share his knowledge and foster the creation of small farming systems. While Indoor Farming Systems are not a new concept, Alex’s idea and passion is certainly a leap forward in the development of effective solutions.
USA Today and the Appleton Post Crescent did a story on Alex’s invention last year.
Pat Clusman is the Chief Operating Officer at Innovationedge. Follow Pat on Twitter @pclusman
Last week we took part in a creative thought leadership session with a local hospital:
Pat Clusman, Chief Operating Officer, Innovationedge and Steve Tyink, Miron Construction, led a kick-off session on Leading Game Changing Innovation for the leadership team at Holy Family Memorial Hospital in Manitowoc. With many of the leaders present contributing to the Holy Family Memorial innovation process, the kick-off session focused on stimulating and fostering innovation within their teams.
Pat discussed innovation challenges and focal areas for innovation and Steve challenged the leaders to look from the “outside in”, gather clues and create attachment. Steve shared many great industry examples on how clues shape our lives.
This is a great combination of Open innovation partnerships, social media input from crowdsourcing, and helping make the world a better place. New Story is a non profit based in Haiti, and has come up with a crowdfunding platform which enables families to raise the money to finance building a new, long-term home.
It takes about $6,000 to build a home for one family. New Story has partnered with Mission of Hope, which sources families in need and helps them to launch a crowdfunding campaign. Potential donors can read the family’s story and view expenses such as materials and labor. All the money raised goes directly to each project, which is then carried out by local contractors in Haiti. The houses, which are three room block homes, are usually completed within two months, after which families post video updates for their donors. You can read this story here, and perhaps even donate to a family in need yourself: http://www.newstorycharity.org/