The 3 Secrets to Creating a Culture of Innovation

The Innovation Engineering Movement is RELIABLY creating sustainable cultures of innovation.  The movement is a collection of communities of Innovation Engineering Black Belts within Fortune 100 Companies, Small and Medium Sized Companies, Governments, Universities and the members of the newly formed Innovation Engineering Network (see "p.s." below).   In just a few years we have grown from a community of about a dozen individuals to a community covering five countries, all fifty US states, hundreds of small and medium sized companies and dozens of large companies and universities.  Arguably, by January 1 we will be the world's largest network of certified innovation companies and experts.   

HOW DID IT HAPPEN?

It started with a simple purpose:

To Change the World by transforming innovation from a random art to a reliable system delivering increased speed and decreased risk. 

Now I understand that the idea of Changing the World - of even the culture of a company - is  met with a blend of excitement and eye rolls.

However as Sir Terry Leahy, the retired CEO of Tesco says "Good strategies need to be bold and daring.  People need to be stretched as they can do more than they think. Goals have to cause excitement, and perhaps just a little fear.  Above all, they need to inspire, and present an organization with a choice: have these great ambitions, or remain as you are."

In addition to a meaningful purpose - as with all that we do - there is also fact based science behind our approach to culture change - at the company, country and global level.  Academic research indicates that the secret to sustained change - be in personal habits, health habits or professional behaviors - lies in three simple principles.   NOTE: These principles are reliable for other cultural changes within your  non-profit or for profit. 

1. Start With The Willing:  You cannot force, beat, threaten or scare people into changing.  Culture change starts with the willing as Bill Conway - the CEO who "discovered" Dr. Deming told me.  Academics call it autonomy.   Leaders, managers and workers need to make the decision to make the transformation.   It is a decision of the head, heart and gut instinct.  The process tends to follow the Bass Diffusion curve - 2.5% Innovators followed by 12.5% early adopters followed by 35% early majority followed by 35% late majority -- and the remaining "laggards" well ...early retirement is an option :).  

After my meeting with Bill Conway we made a change in how we expanded the Innovation Engineering movement.  We stopped "selling" and moved to "educating."  We quickly learned that investing our time, energy and money on the willing paid greater dividends.  To be clear - walking away from the "oxygen eaters"  as Bill Conway called the debaters and time wasters - was not easy.   We are always sad when we can't reach everyone.   Fortunately - most of the time they come around as the diffusion curve does it's magic.

2. Educate and Enable: The second step is to educate the willing in the new mindset.  Teach them, show them, coach them, support them.  Do not "assume" that they know why, what and how.  Educate, educate and educate.  The process is easier with younger people.  With older people it takes more repetitions as you have to help them "unlearn" bad behaviors in order of the new behaviors to take root.

With Innovation Engineering we do this through the patent pending Cycles to Mastery education system.  It features sequences of Digital, Lab, Application and Reflection classes.   Students on campus and off learn through a set of 4 College Courses (Create, Communicate, Commercialize and Systems).  However that's just the start.  We make it real through two more "courses" as they Lead an innovation project and Coach a project.

3. Sustain with Communities:  The key to sustaining the change is to create communities where people are part of something bigger then themselves.  Belonging to a group gives strength to the new mindset.  It provides reinforcement, purpose and meaning to life.

Within Innovation Engineering our core community is the IE Black Belts.   This is the community across countries, continents, colleges and companies that bands together to make the movement a movement.   In companies it includes members of IE Green Belt Waves and IE Accelerator projects.

In large companies -  it is much harder to create communities that are "stronger" than "silos." We are finding success through Innovation Engineering System Summits.  Summits are 100 day projects where leaders and managers come together to tackle the "bureaucratic systems."  Through intensive and specialized mining - a series of Create sessions - and rapid Alpha and Beta Development prototypes - tangible systems are put in place for supporting the new mindset.  NOTE: System Summits are much more challenging than inventing Meaningfully Unique innovations.  However, they also pay a more sustained dividend as they impact all projects for a long time.

The four fundamental systems that we are finding that ALL LARGE COMPANIES NEED include: Strategy To Delivery, Patent ROI, Innovation Supply Chain and Success Amplifier Data System.  We are learning over and over again that without directly addressing and dissolving these four fundamental systems there will be no sustainability of an Innovation Culture in large organizations. Rather - it will remain a Random Art practiced by a few who have the energy to do never ending battle with the beurocracy.

In small and mid sized companies - sustainability is fueled through Innovation Leadership Communities where CEO's gather on a monthly basis to share their system learnings, ideas and advice. 

Cheers,

Doug Hall

p.s.  Innovation Engineering Network Forming January 1, 2014: Over two dozen independent consultancies are coming together to create the Innovation Engineering Network.  If your consultancy is interested in joining the movement message me on LinkedIn or call me at 513 271 9911 to learn more.