June 24, 2016

“Building a Culture of Innovation:” Business Mantra, Innovate or Die


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Summary


To achieve strategic and profitable long-term innovation, businesses need the right culture. This kind of innovation isn't the trendy kind featured on business magazines, it's the kind of innovation that gives your business a decisive edge over the competition. "Building a Culture of Innovation" provides the required tools and framework to progress forward.

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Innovation is the new buzzword in marketing. It seems daily that we are regaled with stories of hipster-style geeks building world-changing technologies between rounds of ping-pong in the cafeteria.

But is this innovation? Does every business need hipster geeks to be a truly innovative company? “Building a Culture of Innovation: A Practical Framework for Placing Innovation at the Core of Your Business” argues that it isn’t. Instead, the book argue that a business’ culture matters more than its employees when it comes to innovation.

What “Building a Culture of Innovation” is About

Innovative culture, as discussed in “Building a Culture of Innovation,” is not some trendy term for Millennial-led businesses crafting products out of thin air. Innovation, the authors assert, is a process rather than a one-trick pony and one that is vital  for every business in the constantly changing conditions of the modern market. The right kind of innovation combines production and service. Companies need to create forward-thinking products with service that leads competitors scrambling to catch up.

The gap between practice and reality with innovation begins in the perception. Businesses, in the author’s opinion, maintain a lopsided view of innovation. On one side of the spectrum are the companies who focus exclusively on finding the “next best thing”. Alternatively, there are companies who refuse innovation if it costs more than one penny. Both extremes foster a culture that can’t sustain long-term innovation. (Think about Blockbuster and the really trendy startup that fizzles out in less than 3 months when the novelty wears off.)

Reaching the kind of innovation espoused in “Building a Culture of Innovation” requires a deep shift in the perspective from which “innovation” is viewed. To be truly effective, innovation needs to be integrated throughout the whole business. That innovation also needs to be continually fostered in a culture that is adaptable, collaborative, and deeply informed about the customer’s environment (at a much deeper level than Big Data).

To assist in making this shift in perspective, the authors suggest a plethora of handy tools and assessments to measure almost every aspect of business innovation (Innovation Maturity Model, risk/reward matrix, etc,). These tools are provided in the hope that businesses move from the unhealthy extremes in the innovation spectrum. Proactive innovation, rather than innovation chasing or reactive innovation, is the blueprint to building a stable foundation in a world of shifting customer loyalty.

The book is the work of three authors with diverse business backgrounds. Cris Beswick (@crisbeswick) is an author, former CEO and product designer and director of Innovation Consulting at The Culture Constancy. Beswick also founded The Future Shapers, a consulting agency specializing n business innovation.

Jo Geraghty (@jogeraghty) is a former Goldman-Sachs executive, executive coach, and director of The Culture Constancy, an agency that provides consulting on workplace culture. And Derek Bishop (@derekbishop) is also a director at The Culture Constancy. Bishop comes from a background in organizational change and customer service in fast-moving industries.

What Was Best About “Building a Culture of Innovation”

The best part of “Building a Culture of Innovation” is the strong emphasis on shifting the perspective many businesses have on innovation. The authors, with years of experience in the field, draw on deep insight and up-to-date trends to give well-informed counsel. These authors don’t dance around the concept. They delve deep into the subject, pointing out key milestones to look for.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

The breadth of insight in the book while extremely helpful, may be a little overwhelming for a reader just getting his or her mind around the idea of innovation. If your idea of innovation is a new product flavor, it will take some time to choose the right tools and concepts that work for you out of the many options in the book. If you are comfortable with innovation and have a decent budget, this book should provide a treasure trove of tools to use.

Why Read “Building a Culture of Innovation”

If you ask the authors of “Building a Culture of Innovation”, they would argue their book is for every business. That being said, the ideal readers for this book are business owners and managers who are ready to embrace innovation but feel lacking in some area (whether it’s culture, technology, etc.)

The book helps readers pinpoint which areas of innovation to refine along with examples of companies that demonstrate the kind of innovation promoted in the book.

3 Comments ▼
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Charles Franklin


Charles Franklin Charles Franklin is a Book Reviewer for Small Business Trends. He has a background as a professional reviewer, and is also a content provider and customer relations professional.

3 Reactions

  1. It’s a nice wake up call. Because most businesses are just there repeating what others are doing. Sure, they have a USP, but they don’t create their own methods or innovations. In this age, I think that it is very important to have something like that if you want your business to gain attention and succeed.

  2. Martin Lindeskog

    Charles: Could you mention some business that have built this culture of innovation?

  3. Hi Martin

    There’s no real global benchmark for providing you a list of companies that have built a true culture of innovation as the majority of reports and surveys done focus on measuring financial performance and labelling it innovation. So whilst you could for example look at the Forbes list of the ‘World’s Most Innovative Companies’ it wouldn’t necessarily mean any company on that list would automatically have an amazing culture of innovation.

    In essence the companies on the list like Tesla, Amazon, Salesforce etc have been ranked according to their ‘Innovation Premium’. This is a calculation of the difference between their current NPV (net present value) from cash flow out of their existing business and their market capitalization. The difference between these two figures is their ‘innovation premium’ but in reality it’s an educated guess or gut feel as to whether they’ll continue to drive profitable growth. But, driving or sustaining profitable growth is no real measure of whether a company has a culture of innovation.

    The good thing is that the majority of organizations around the world now understand that the game has changed and that innovation cannot continue to be looked at through the narrow lens of products or services. It is no longer the domain of the R&D department or the product development team. Experiences are playing a much greater part of what customers want now and with the increasing homogenization of consumer goods and services, differentiation is becoming increasingly difficult. To combat that organizations now realize that combining innovation around product with innovation around experiences with innovation around business models for example is part of the solution and that requires much more of the organization to be involved. They also know that understanding the customer of today, tomorrow and beyond is key so engaging more of their people in innovation in order to tap into as many ways to understand the world as possible is key to being able to innovate for competitive advantage. All that requires much more of a people oriented (customers and employees) innovation strategy.

    We’re working with several big companies at the moment to help them understand how to build a culture of innovation and move the focus away from a purely product and profit focus. I can’t divulge who they are I’m afraid but there are a couple of companies that might interest you in terms of their approach. The challenge is finding out what they are doing and how they do it because it’s not something that they are going to openly share.

    I spoke at a conference last year and one of my fellow speakers was Robert Niblock, the CEO of Lowes. Robert gave a great presentation about their innovation culture programme and it was one of the best I’ve seen. They’ve taken innovation from the product focus to a focus on innovation as a fundamental part of the whole organization, i.e. a culture of innovation. They’re a great example.

    Hope that helps
    Best regards
    @CrisBeswick

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