How to create an innovation culture when in management jobs?

Social entrepreneurship is the new buzzword of this millennium. It is a need in many parts of the world, where suddenly personnel in senior management jobs are expected to step up and create an environment of innovation. Efforts towards sustainability and resource productivity have been led by the belief that companies that are the most sustainable and innovative will be the most successful.

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As a result, companies across the globe are now increasingly focusing on solutions, instead of problems. When in a management job, senior professionals need to be aware of the ways to promote this culture, to be able to succeed.

Social entrepreneurs are society’s change agents, seizing opportunities others miss in order to improve systems, invent and disseminate new approaches, and advance sustainable solutions that create social value. They are creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world.

Given this importance, here are my tips on how to create an environment and culture of social entrepreneurship within an organization: 

Creative simplicity

Leonardo da Vinci so many years ago said something that companies are applying today: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

When creating simple products that meet the immediate needs of their customers, social innovators typically design them from the ground up. Social innovators also focus more on customer needs than desires.

They employ a functional approach to product and service design, and try to develop practical solutions that address well-defined customer needs. They are not in the business of coming up with cool features that appeal to customer wants. Instead, they aim to make and deliver a good enough solution with limited functionality rather than one with a dazzling array of features.

Buddhist economics too adds a spiritual dimension to the same. Its aim is to attain the maximum well-being with minimum consumption.

Think global, act local.

The relevance – and ultimate success – of any new business venture depends on the context in which it is applied. When adopting any new tool or approach, companies should not apply it indiscriminately in all circumstances, but selectively, in situations where it is most appropriate.

Further, concepts that may have worked in some countries may not always work across geographies. For instance, the vacuum cleaner even though it was popular in the west, did not work well in the eastern climate where dust and other conditions are very different. Thus, each approach has its own magic formula that makes it work.

Similarly, it is not advisable for entrepreneurs to simply copy versions of popular start-ups or websites that may have been successful abroad. Instead, they should concentrate on creating standalone versions that will resonate with local conditions in their own regions.

Extraordinary client delight

Some of the biggest brands (Facebook, Zara, Google, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Apple) – have absolutely no advertising. Their marketing works completely on the word-of-mouth model and relies purely on a sense of “extraordinary client delight.” Twitter, for instance has almost no competitor in the micro-blogging space.

Customers no longer just buy products; rather they seek new experiences that delight them. They almost want to establish an emotional bond with the products they buy.

Apple is the perfect example of such a company. By combining superior design with excellent engineering, Apple keeps its customers thrilled with each product it launches. This ability helps it capture not only bigger market share but also customer mindshare and heart share.

Thus in a sense, marketers address and exploit a consumer’s needs, and then manipulate them in order to create wants in his/her mind.

Thus, marketing executives and R&D directors need to follow their hearts in engaging customers and co-creating solutions that delight them. It’s often not about who has the best ideas, but about who is the best at executing them.

Encouraging innovation at the workplace

Social entrepreneurship is a highly effective business tool that can be formalized and can help companies innovate faster, better, and cheaper in today’s hyper-competitive and volatile environment. Consequently, such a free-spirited mind-set could be nurtured in an organization – by unleashing and harnessing grassroots, employee- or consumer-led creativity.

The most critical factor – one that can make or break the successful adoption of social innovation in an organization – is leadership. Without strong commitment and backing from senior management and leaders, a potent yet disruptive approach can fail to take hold in organizations accustomed to the structured approach.

management jobs and innovation culture

Identify bold and creative leaders

Bold, creative leadership is vital for the successful adoption – and integration – of social entrepreneurship in an organization. Rather than imposing it as the best-practice du jour, CEOs could strive to facilitate its adoption as a grassroots movement that evolves organically and voluntarily.

Further, organizations don’t practice social entrepreneurship; rather, individuals in an organization do so. By exercising restraint, organizations can enable the ingenuity that lies dormant in each of their employees to emerge on its own and flourish in a bottom-up manner, opposed to the usual top-down fashion.

Organizations should also seek to identify – and celebrate – those maverick employees who think and act like social innovators. These mavericks are the ‘outliers’ who defy corporate policies and guidelines to come up with ground-breaking inventions. By publicly celebrating their achievements, CEOs can send a signal to other employees that it’s okay to think and act flexibly or do more with less or include the margin.

Hopefully I have reached out to you all, especially the professionals in management jobs for using these as an inspiration cheat-sheet. If you had any more inputs to add, please let me know through your comments!

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