Why Invest in Innovation?
Building a culture of innovation is paramount to the problem solving and progression of any business. And yet, many companies fall by the wayside when it comes to either building or sustaining such a culture.
Risk aversion can take many forms, although it predominantly masquerades as either ‘budget limitation’ or ‘cultural resistance’.
It is true that people wedded to the status quo and hierarchy will kill innovation pretty quickly. Innovation requires flexibility and the possibility of change for cultures. Change takes time because mindsets need time to stumble and fall before they adapt. So when organizations invest in innovation training for only a few days or as a short-term strategy, it is inevitable that people will quickly return to old cultural patterns once the ‘innovation phase’ is over because there is no time-span available for the essential adaptation to happen.
The solution is simple – in order to successfully foster a culture of innovation, it is crucial to invest in both time and money long-term.
Slow and consistent building of a new way of thinking, with the space and permission for failure and the invaluable learning that goes hand in hand with it, is the most economically sound investment. Not only that, it has the biggest evidence of innovative return. We only have to look to companies like BMW and Deutsche Bank to see this.
Both of these organizations have invested in the long-term development and growth of innovation labs. These labs set out to tackle challenges head-on by harnessing the existing energies of their people along with the technology expertise of startups, usually headed up by millenials. This clever combination develops and nurtures diverse teams. In turn, it creates a more matrix-like culture and promotes a strong innovative drive that becomes the backbone of their business. Both are now thriving and looking resourceful and resilient for years to come.
To keep things simple, let’s use a metaphor. Innovation, like gardening, will only work if the things that limit growth are regularly weeded out, the things with potential are nurtured and tended to and only harvested when they have had time to grow to their best potential. The ground must be reseeded and combined with accelerators where possible. There is little possibility of the overnight success without the long term implementation.
And whilst long-term investments may seem initially to cost more, such investments will always lead to stronger innovative ideas and behaviours embedded into the culture. This in turn will provide a much larger return on investment for years to come and a much more resourceful, dynamic culture able to grow and adapt with the unpredictable changes that will face every business further down the road. It will be a straightforward case of survival of the fittest.