Everyone wants it – our government wants it, our businesses want it, our communities want it, but they all seem to have different ways of trying to get it.  They are trying to hire it, they are trying to buy it, even copy it, but still many are struggling to get what they want.  The challenge is working out what innovation means to you.

To us, innovation is new thinking with a focus on creating something better than we currently have.  Innovation should be about advancing what we are doing, not about creating stuff just for the joy of it (and potentially sewing the seeds for the very next problem at the very same time).

Despite the fact that most people agree that innovation is a solution to many of our problems, getting it is another thing.  Some of the most common drivers for innovation that we come across include:

  • Being stuck in a rut in a changing environment and not knowing how to respond
  • Trying to get ahead of others in the same field (or at least catching up with competitors)
  • Needing to do more with less in all the forms it takes
  • Needing to make things better and the current solutions just not cutting it

And, some of the most common responses we see to the innovation challenge include:

  • a focus on process
  • the creation of a specialist department,
  • an innovation rewards scheme
  • a top down focus

While these responses could work in the right circumstances, none of them address the biggest barrier that we find to a truly innovative group or organisation – and that is culture.  You can hire the smartest people, buy the most fabulous innovative little start-ups, engage the most amazing consultants and copy the most inspirational organisations, but if your group/organisation does not foster an empowered and engaged culture – your innovation goals will not succeed in the long term.

An empowered and engaged culture is one that allows people to get their DNA all over the organisation, have ideas and then make them happen, and feel a part of something bigger and more important than just business as usual.

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Written by Lisa Smith

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Lisa is a professional thinker dedicated to helping people unlock their innate creativity and to empower them to think differently – for themselves. She is passionate about building innovative cultures and about harnessing and engaging talent to create thinking communities. Lisa holds an MBA, specialising in organisational change and innovation, which forms the nucleus of her work. She relishes opportunities to share the Minds at Work thinking strategies with government bodies, socially responsible corporate, educators, community groups and farmers, helping them to turn their big ideas into realities.