60: Creating a Culture of Innovation

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Many companies talk about ‘innovation’ when asked about their company’s mission or how they engage employees and bring about change. But the reality is that leaders are not always aligned with their definition of innovation and employees do not always feel the freedom to generate new ideas. John Storm defines innovation, highlighting the diverse views around its definition. He identifies the obstacles that can inhibit successful innovation and shares his approach to helping navigate choppy waters during the innovation process. Finally, he offers advice for organizations who are trying to drive innovation. 
John Storm is the founder of BrainStorm Network. He works with individuals and organizations to spark fresh thinking and to help bring their ideas to life. John is a professional brainstormer who facilitates, trains, consults and speaks, offering innovative solutions for brainstorming and innovation.
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Fred's interview with John.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • What is innovation? Innovation means different things to different people. Most people see innovation as a positive, talking about growth, positive change and progress. However, a few people see it as a negative because it is a disruption to their comfortable way of life. With innovation, there are often winners and losers – one person’s innovation is another person’s curse. 
  • There are several tools to help define innovation. Some people think innovation is R&D, others think it is technology or gadgets. Some think of it as a concept such as continuous improvement, while others may see it as a total disruption to the status quo.
    • Begin by asking leaders to define innovation. Then ask how many people on their leadership team knows their leader’s definition and how well are people executing their leader’s vision of innovation. 
    • Two examples of differing understandings: IT thinks innovation is about technology; HR thinks of innovation as something everyone should have access to.
    • John looks at innovation as the process of bringing an idea to life. It is about taking ideas and turning them into something tangible and of value.
  • A short list of obstacles that can get in the way of innovation. 
    • Success itself – what worked before becomes an obstacle
    • Ruts, habits, and patterns – being in your comfort zone 
    • Arrogance – egos, the KIA (know-it-all), not having an open mind
    • Lack of metrics
    • Lack of processes and/or systems – you cannot just ‘wing it’
    • Copycat innovation – what is successful elsewhere may not transfer to your environment
    • Distraction – getting overwhelmed, difficult to stay focused on what is important versus what is urgent, forgetting why you are doing this
  • John Storm Innovation Quote on HR Studio PodcastInnovation Risk versus Safety. When it comes to innovation, there is a natural continuum between safety and risk. Most organizations gravitate towards safety, which can lead to stagnation. Some people move too far towards risk and, oftentimes, ‘flame out’. If massive disrupters don’t manage the safety side, they can lose it all. 
  • John uses ‘glass devices’ to help clients navigate ‘tricky waters’. His goal is to serve as a resource to leaders to use these four views to help them to become trusted, valued advisors to the projects they are involved in.
    • A mirror – John serves as a mirror, reflecting what they see about themselves and asking the tough questions 
    • A microscope – to dig into the details, finding the facts, doing the research, identifying the challenges 
    • A telescope – to see into the distance, into the future, to get a vision 
    • A kaleidoscope – to see things in new ways, a new texture or color or combination, that you would not see through a regular lens
  • Senior Leadership Buy-In. Although innovation can rise from anywhere in the organization, if you really want to drive change, you have to start at the top. If you aren’t able to get buy-in from the leadership team, it is probably not going to work.
  • Innovation Design Wheel. John created the Innovation Design Wheel to help people create a culture of innovation. It provides seven basic steps to help people get clarity around what they mean by innovation, its value, what they want to drive, and the obstacles. It offers a systemized process to help them determine what they expect and to decide if it is worth it.
  • Innovation is a fountain that is flowing ‘deep and wide’. To drive innovation in your organization, John encourages HR leaders to go deep and wide:
    • Go deep, and get clarity about your mission and values and what is really driving innovation.  Ask the tough questions of your stakeholders. Look at leading – not lagging – metrics.
    • Go wide to develop strategies to maximize the input of all of your stakeholders to engage their hearts and minds. Look beyond your own industry at other industries, and look at their models and trends.

Recommended Reading and References From this Episode

John Storm HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
John Storm HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, August 14, 2018 - 8:00am
HR Consulting
Fred Bunsa
John Storm
HR Studio Podcast