As I learned at the National Retail Federation Conference earlier this year, the
Most CIOs recognize that innovation is important for long-term survival. Yet many of them create conditions that mostly stifle innovation, according to Justin Mennen, CIO of managed IT services company CompuCom. In part one of a two-part interview with The Enterprisers Project, he explains what most companies get wrong, and how to get it right.
The Enterprisers Project (TEP): How have you been successful at creating a culture of innovation in large organizations?
Mennen: There are numerous models and frameworks to help organizations on their innovation journeys. While all can provide valuable insight, I prefer to keep it simple and clear. First, what is innovation? Innovation to me is delivering on a new idea.
In order to create a culture of innovation, all levels of the organization should feel they have the ability to deliver on new ideas, and they should understand the direct link between that innovation and the overall strategy and vision of the company. This requires a change in the mindset of most teams. Employees who feel they are unable to enact change, and those who are not connected to the strategy, will find it difficult to innovate.
You have to make innovation easy. A digital strategy that embraces emerging technology is naturally going to inspire innovation, given that the work is exciting. Modernize your strategy and rally the organization around it to achieve your business results. Next, remove restrictions and put clear guard rails in place for the team to follow. Overly complicated or heavily governed innovation processes tend to fail in my experience. Set the basic rules (if any) and unleash your talent.
TEP: Most innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum – it needs to work within the context of the larger organization, which has many different projects and priorities at any given time. Isn't some sort of structure and governance needed for everyone to work together effectively?
Mennen: Where structure is needed, I'm a believer in design thinking as a process to drive innovation. Design thinking empowers you to take business opportunities, unconstrained ideation, and rapid prototypes to deliver business results. Vital to building a culture of innovation is a sense of urgency and what I refer to as "IT at the speed of the customer." Design thinking lends itself to this approach.
Open communication, cross-team collaboration, and leadership support at all levels are necessary to drive a culture of innovation. Recognize your people, create innovation awards and encourage healthy innovation competition to build excitement. Finally, you have to measure business results from innovation and showcase your success. On the other hand, don't be afraid of failure because that fear impedes progress.