Emanate to Innovate

Top-down, bottom up, there are all kinds of theories out there on innovation and how to cultivate it.  Most focus on creating a collaborative work environment where everyone feels empowered and where leaders are selfless mentors who walk the walk and set the tone.  Sign me up to work there and find some more companies like this to be my clients! 

The truth is that often neither the worker bees or management gets it, and those that do don’t get it right all the time.   I stumbled across this fun little site a while back called wecreate and read a fabulous post called The Key to Sustainable Growth that focuses on what research has shown to be the biggest innovation firestarter- company culture.  While the article offers quite a few handy tips on how to mean what you say and walk the talk, what I found most interesting was the idea that a culture should emanate from each worker. 

Being empowered doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t understand what you are empowered to do.  This idea that making people accountable will lead to innovation is a fallacy.  Accountability makes people retreat inside themselves and take the safest and surest route since they are implicitly going to be blamed if something goes wrong.  Empowerment is a whole different beast.  When someone is empowered, they are able to shape the process and terms for which they will later be held accountable and agree to those terms not just stand there holding the bag at the end.

Understanding what you are empowered to do isn’t helpful if you are not inspired by the mission.  Does your company have a mission statement?  Do you even know what it is?  How about your clients?  Long, vague statements are irrelevant.  A short sentence that captures the essence of who you are and why you do what you do means something and serves as a guiding principle to staff at every decision point along the way.  This mission will either resonate with employees and cause them to radiate the company culture, or it won’t.  Those who aren’t inspired will leave or soon emerge as ripe for the chopping block.

No mission can be undertaken fully if it doesn’t have the proper resources behind it.  By resources, I am not necessarily talking about money.  I am talking about good processes, and good ability to obtain and share knowledge.  A mission is just words if it isn’t backed up by tools and expertise as well as a willingness to share it freely with others.

So how do you create a culture of innovation for yourself and your clients? How do you have it emanate from each and every employee, every project?  Its not top down or bottom up but in between, across and through that matters.  Please share your innovation experiences- I’d love to hear what worked and didn’t for you!