“The journey to organic growth in any organisation will be driven by innovation”

Innovation is a word that is used frequently within business. It is the ‘gold dust’ that separates success v’s failure or progression v’s stagnation or digression. Whilst innovation is something that every business pursues, it isn’t something that every business finds.

In the past Internal Communications has been difficult to quantify from a commercial point of view. It is easy to understand why IC is perceived as a nice to have rather than a strategic business function.  But in the era of innovation IC has an opportunity to reinvent itself as a value adding business function that can have real impact on the bottom line.

Innovation is a value that IC can embed into an organisational culture; creating a culture of collaborative discussion where new ideas are rewarded and progressive thinking becomes a cultural ambition and behavioural output.

As the IC function evolves there are four key elements that it can drive in an organisation which are Culture, Engagement, Change, and Innovation. Each of those elements has a direct impact on the success or failure of a business; but it is innovation that is the key to positioning IC as a commercially viable function.

By creating a culture of innovation, you are creating a culture of growth.  There are four simple steps you can follow to create a culture of innovation in your business.

1. Culture

Embedding innovation into your culture is the key to driving growth in your business. If you were to define organisational innovation it could perhaps be classified as generating new ideas or progressive thinking (finding new and better ways of doing things).

Innovation needs to be at the heartbeat of your values: it needs to be defined in your cultural fabric and competency framework so that employees understand what it is and how they demonstrate it. Many organisations will have an ‘innovation’ value; but with no definition behind what it means, the value becomes redundant.

Aligning your values to your behaviours; and actually mapping out what innovation means to your business and your people is key to successfully building it into your culture. Don’t make innovation a tick box exercise; make it something tangible.

2. Conversation

The critical role of IC in driving innovation in business is to provide channels and mechanisms for conversation and idea sharing. When you are defining your channel strategy innovation should be a key consideration.

Social Media opens up opportunity. Online communities, blogging, videos, and discussions present organisations with opportunity to drive innovative thinking. An innovation portal within your Intranet that is a repository for discussion and ideas can work well. Also find ways to bring in external thinking such as RSS feeds to industry blogs into your channels: innovation is often an evolution of an idea; and giving your organisation the power of knowledge both inside and outside of the business is important.

In addition to digital channels look at ways to create an innovation committee; bringing together a group to share and consider ideas.

3. Reward

IC can work in partnership with HR to build innovation into a reward mechanism. For innovation to be successful it has to be rewarded – there has to be an incentive for employees to generate ideas. A good way to manage this is to give employees opportunity to work on projects that are pursued from an idea they generate – also providing some form of financial reward if the idea becomes a reality.

4. Leadership

IC has a role to play in working with Leaders to influence; acting as the conduit to innovation in the business. For innovation to be successful it has to be embraced by Leaders and encouraged in an organisation.

An executive sponsor to innovation is something that can work well – a senior Leader that can be involved in discussions and chair an innovation committee.

Finding space for innovation on the Leadership agenda is also vital; allowing Leaders the time to discuss ideas and agree action plans to pursue. To make this process more efficient – the innovation committee can shortlist 3-4 ideas on a monthly / bi monthly basis for discussion.

Summary

The above will not guarantee that you will have an innovative business; but it gives you a strong foundation to drive innovation and growth.

And right at the centre of your ‘innovation strategy’ will be Internal Communications – which will position the function as a credible and value adding commercial proposition.

Innovation is one element of what IC can deliver; and it is the one that can give IC credibility amongst Leaders. It will enable employee engagement to run in parallel at the top of the Leadership agenda.

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