Creating a Culture of Never Ending Innovation

Good Morning Innovation Leaders,  It’s the best of times for organizations where every employee --- is innovating --- every


But what if your organization is like that described to me by a CEO a few years ago, “Doug, I’ll be honest - I don’t know how to innovate, my managers don’t know how to innovate, my employees don’t know how to innovate.”

If that’s your answer then you are not alone.  Research finds that at least 85% of organizations don’t know how to innovate.  Frankly, why should they?   How would they know?  --- especially if they never had to - and were never taught.

Fortunately Innovation is Easy -- once you know how.  It involves 3 simple actions by the leadership and 3 for the workers.

3 Leadership Actions to Ignite Never Ending Innovation

1. Constancy of Purpose:  Constancy of Purpose means that the Leader is taking responsibility for the long term future of the organization.  The leader is not distracted by the “noise” of today - but rather leading the company in the never ending innovation required to restart the business life cycle with the products, services, customers and markets that can enable good jobs, profitable growth and long term hope for the organization.  One challenge with Constancy of Purpose is that it often means that the Leader needs to take responsibility for decisions that will take affect after he or she is retired.

2. Meaningfully Unique: Every organization - for profit or non profit - exists on a continuum running from commodity to monopoly.  The simple way to determine where you are on this continuum is to compare the price customers are willing to pay for your offering versus competitive offers.  It’s the leader’s job to lead the organization in a process of never ending change - to transform commodity offerings into meaningfully unique ones.  Sometimes it’s done with a new technology - sometimes it’s about hundreds of small innovations that collectively make for a meaningful difference that customers are willing to pay more money for.   IMPORTANT: If you as CEO don’t set the new mindset - that focuses on offering products and services that are so Meaningfully Unique customers will happily pay more - then you will not realize the level of change required to become a culture of Never Ending Innovation.

3. Systems Thinking:  The Leader is responsible for banishing silo thinking and the “blame game.”   Innovation Leaders use Constancy of Purpose to inspire workers to focus on the long term focus not petty fights, egos or whining.   As Dr. Deming found - 94% of problems are due to the system - just 6% are due to the people.  If people are failing on a continuing basis - make a systemic improvement to their tools, training and

methods of operation.   Only the leader can “be the bigger person” - and lead the culture in a search for solutions instead of a search for the guilty.

3 Worker Actions to Ignite Never Ending Innovation

To achieve Constancy of Purpose resulting in good jobs and growth opportunities the worker needs to commit to three things.

1. Stimulus Mining:  Stimulus Mining is about continual learning and the acquisition of new knowledge.   It’s about studying, searching, finding new ways of thinking, new options, new wisdom for how to approach the work.  Stimulus takes many forms - form Customer Insights to Competitive Benchmarking to Technology Mining and Future mining to anticipate future opportunities.

2. Diversify Thinking:  Diversifying Thinking is about cooperation and collaboration.  It’s about rising above the personal ego to the higher order Constancy of Purpose of the organization. It’s about a willingness to listen and learn from others.  It’s a willingness to simultaneously engineer total solutions.  It’s a focus on what’s right for the good of the total system - not simply what’s right for your department, division or personal gain.

3. Drive Out Fear:  This is the hardest of all of the six principles.  What makes it hard is that it requires a willingness to say “I don’t know, I need help and I fail a lot”.   Admitting these three simple things is difficult for adults whose self image is based on -- knowing the answers, not needing to ask for help and never failing.   The easy way to Drive Out Fear is to embrace and celebrate the Deming cycle of Plan, Do, Study, Act or as we call it - Fail FAST Fail CHEAP.   Fast and cheap cycles of learning drive away fear and build courage to take action on the kinds of Meaningfully Unique ideas that enable Constancy of Purpose.

Starting Wednesday - step one of the five tactical steps we recommend for transforming your organization into a culture of Never Ending Innovation - with Increased Speed and Decreased Risk.Cheers