Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, how can leaders foster a culture of innovation?
Stuart Morris, lecturer in entrepreneurship, Henley Business School (SM): Innovation thrives in a culture of trust and encouragement. When employees are afraid, they will tend to hunker down and go for low visibility.
Tamara Friedrich, associate professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, Warwick Business School (TF): Communicate that innovation is valued and mean it. So many organisations put innovation in their mission statements or promotional materials, but then don’t live it day to day. If you want innovation, you must put resources and action behind the words. Reward those that are innovative, foster a climate of learning from failures rather than fear of failure and don’t change the message too often. Staff will disengage if they get new “missions” too often. I’ve seen employees acknowledge their organisation was promoting innovation, but assumed it was just management’s “flavour of the month” priority.
Costas Andriopoulos, professor of innovation and entrepreneurship, Cass Business School (CA):
Three core values are worth passing along:
1. Openly communicate: leaders should expose everyone to critical information that might prove useful somewhere down the line.
2. Create a “no fear” mindset: innovative employees should work in an environment that tolerates mistakes and considers temporary setbacks as a part of the path towards coming up with novel ideas.
3. Celebrate individuality and collaboration: innovative employees have autonomy over their work.
They need freedom to adopt their own working practices in order to explore the task in question.
At the same time,leaders should both recognise and reward the team effort.
Vibha Gaba, associate professor of entrepreneurship, INSEAD (VG): I think when it comes to shaping the culture of an organisation, actions speak louder than words. So how leaders behave matters more than what they say. More importantly, what leaders need to nurture is an environment where people are always encouraged to think what they can do better and how they can do it better.