The 10 (+1) ingredients for building a collaborative innovation culture

Business innovation is no longer a ‘nice’ asset, but rather a must-have for the success of any company today. It may be complex, but it is also a company-wide endeavour: according to leading CEOs, the most important strategy to improve the performance of business innovation is culture, considering it the pillar of corporate success.

A KPMG Innovation Survey found that organisations that systematically search for collaboration opportunities gain higher rates of product success and twice as much profit. To do so, they must focus on every dimension of innovation, involving different actors from various levels and departments in the process.

Building a culture of innovation is not an easy feat and requires a transformation at both a cultural and operational level. We share the 10 (+1) ingredients to promote a collaborative innovation culture within an organisation:


1. A clear vision of shared goals

Every innovation agenda needs a significant purpose, a vision that should be shared clearly among the entire workforce. Starbucks, for example, clearly shows its cohesive company values in its mission statement: ‘To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time’.

Only in this way can organisations ensure that objectives and expectations are aligned, so that everyone is rowing in the same direction. A targeted focus, a mutual goal and a sense of accountability also provide employees with a feeling of opportunity to be able to mould the future of the company, with every individual playing a vital role in its success.


2. Spaces, tools and moments dedicated to innovation

To get innovation to flourish in a corporate setting, innovation leaders must create dedicated environments in which ideas can be explored – a place that inspires people to communicate and co-create. Specific times should also be allocated to activate innovation and collaboration.

Adopting both online and offline tools, whether it is an idea management software, ideation and design thinking workshops or collaboration software, such as community-building and discussion tools, not only support these innovation efforts but also encourage them.


3. Bringing relevant challenges continuously

The way to deliver results is to establish goals for the workforce, by identifying the key challenges that are aligned with the strategy of the company. They should be relevant, by looking to solve existing issues, be attainable and ensure people can relate to them. Create innovation squads, guided by specific themes, to ensure everyone has the opportunity (and the incentive) to take part in solving each challenge.


4. Innovation ambassadors

To support you in your mission as innovation manager and drum up interest in your innovation initiative, across the board and company-wide, it is important to identify and involve Innovation Ambassadors. Speak to the directors of key departments about their most pressing issues and challenges and show them how your innovation initiative can help solve them, involving these elements in the process and working collaboratively.

innovation ambassadors in collaborative innovation culture


5. Inclusive and diverse types of collaboration

One of the most valuable assets of any company is the wealth of skills, knowledge and experience it can access, all under the same roof. Leveraging the individual qualities of your workforce from the bottom up, across all functions and departments, and involving different personality profiles – from the ideators and builders to the screeners and implementers – helps shape and deliver new ideas and bring value to the company.

Co-authorship should also be encouraged, prompting employees to share their suggestions and comments to ensure ideas improve collaboratively and continuously.


6. Training focused on collaboration skills

Cooperation is an essential skill in business – strong teams who work together are more efficient and produce valuable, higher-quality results. The idea of collaboration seems easy enough, but effective collaboration means building trust and common ground. Design thinking, a creative problem-solving approach that puts the end user first, has great potential as a collaborative force to drive business innovation.

Its key elements include the ability to empathise, think creatively, communicate ideas, collaborative productively and experiment with solutions. Collaboration skills can also be honed in group workshops, focusing on communicating as a team and building strong ties.

collaboration skills in collaborative innovation culture


7. Continuous and efficient communication

Ongoing communication of the initiative is vital to keep the workforce informed and engaged. However, to be effective, the communication strategy should be adapted to the different targets identified within your organisation.

Creative and innovative communication, on a continuous basis, helps keep employees’ interest and should inspire them to take part in the initiative.

It is important to share the goals from the start and encourage an openness to ideation and experimentation, as well as the results throughout and at the end. Sharing the various initiatives, results, recognition and idea implementation in an ongoing manner also ensures transparency throughout the entire process.


8. Gamification mechanisms

Despite being a workplace initiative, collaborative innovation shouldn’t feel like work. To make participation uncomplicated, appealing and, most importantly, fun, gamification mechanisms help motivate employees to get involved and encourage friendly competition.

Organisations that apply gamification to their initiatives see a change and an alignment of their corporate culture, more productive work with more meaning and increased participation of employees, particularly in the younger Millennials.

gamification in a collaborative innovation culture


9. Celebration of individual and collective gains

Employees are more motivated and engaged when they feel their efforts and performance are recognised. Innovation leaders should therefore distinguish individual results, but also collective ones, helping to build trust in the process and an understanding of the overall workflow.

Both tangible results, such as ROI, participation levels and number of ideas, and intangible results, such as happiness at work, should be shared and celebrated throughout the initiative. There should be a methodology in place to measure this broad range of results and celebrated accordingly.


10. Concrete incentives focused on real contribution

Every innovation initiative needs to provide incentives to ensure the motivation and involvement of their employees, beyond their daily routines. When planning the initiative, one of the key considerations should be incentives in the form of prizes and rewards, both tangible and intangible, available to the most active and highest-performing participants. A budget should be in place from the start to define these prizes – the more creative, the better!


10+1. Ideas coming to life

When it comes to collaborative innovation, ideas will only bring value to the organisation if they are implemented at the end. Ultimately, it is crucial to bring these ideas to life and presents the workforce with the results of their efforts. Results – both tangible and intangible – should be measured and shared continuously with the community.

This allows them to see which ideas perform better and why, and, by sharing success stories of implemented ideas, shows employees that their input is truly valuable to the organisation.

Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO



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