THE potential for innovation exists within our organizations. The problem is the culture doesn’t support it. Our organizational cultures tend to prioritize today over tomorrow. How do you make innovation as natural as eating and sleeping? Just something you do; part of your organizational culture?
The authors of Eat, Sleep, Innovate—Scott Anthony, Paul Cobban, Natalie Painchaud, and Andy Parker—contend that the solution “requires focusing people’s daily habits through a series of interventions, and then ensuring that the new habits stick and scale.”
We have to change the culture. And that doesn’t begin by copying the relics of highly innovative companies. We must deal with the source of the problem so that innovation and the manifestations of it arise organically from the culture of the organization.
Their definition of innovation is “something different that creates value.” That’s distinct from invention. A light bulb is just a light bulb until it creates value. “Until you have turned a spark of creativity into revenues, profits, or improved performance, in our eyes, you have not innovated.”
What does the organizational culture need to support?
Curiosity. Innovators ask, “What if?” “Is there a better way?”
Customer Obsession. Innovators understand and are engaged with the potential customer.
Collaboration. Innovation occurs when different ideas and perspectives collide.
Adeptness in Ambiguity. Innovators focus on assumptions over answers.
Empowerment. An idea or invention is not an innovation until you do something with it—create value.
What holds us back is fear and inertia that often the outcome of our successes. This inertia becomes the shadow strategy that is ingrained in our culture. It undermines anything we might say or attempt to do otherwise. “The shadow strategy quietly tugs and budges a company down a path of perpetuation, even if circumstances demand something drastically different.” And that kills innovation.
The antidote to all of this is to break old habits and form new ones—and in effect, change the culture. To this end, a team at Innosight began collecting examples of interventions that promoted better innovation habits. They gave this collection the acronym: BEAN or:
Behavior Enablers: Direct ways to encourage and enable behavior change
Artifacts: Physical or digital objects to reinforce behavior change
Nudges: Indirect was to encourage and enable behavior change
In Eat, Sleep, Innovate, they list 101 BEANs and cover, in detail, over 20 to help you design BEANs specific to your organization. There are six key ingredients to a successful BEAN:
Simplicity: Make it easy to adopt and remember. “Want to exercise more? Leave your running shoes by your bed before you go to sleep.”
Practicality: Connect it to existing routines. “The fewer things you have to change, the better.”
Reinforcement: Create physical and digital reminders. Create “visual cues—fun cubes that people can play with on tables and checklists on the wall—that serve as reminders” of your program.
Organizational Consistency: Ensure it links to objectives, processes, systems, and values. “Effective BEANs don’t encourage people to do one thing if the company rewards them for something else or punishes them for that behavior.”
Uniqueness: Create something fun and social and support it with stories and legends. “Sharing stories helps spread the idea.”
Trackability: Build it in a way that it can be adjusted, measured, and scaled. Capture data that allows you to track and improve the program.
BEANs encourage behaviors that build culture. Build a culture in your organization where innovation is the natural result. A place where people can bring their best to the assets of the organization and create something new that has value and impact. BEANs help to “shrink the challenge” into “micro shifts of change.”
Read more: leadershipnow.com