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Habits to embrace for a peak innovation culture

Innovation doesn’t just happen on its own. Create these habits to build and sustain a culture that turns all team members into innovators.

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This article is Sponsored Content by John Jarosz, Partner & cofounder at Sightglass where he oversees experience design, brand collaboration and experience strategy

Contrary to popular belief, innovation doesn’t always happen just because you put some creative minds together in a room for an afternoon with games and snacks. Sure, you may get lucky. But if you want to make innovation less about luck and hedge your bets, you need an innovation culture that allows ideas to thrive continuously. 

Making the practice of innovation (and its outputs) more consistent means making the discovery of new opportunities a habit versus a sporadic event or ceremony.  Turning innovation into a habit ensures you have a bank of ideas so that time together is more brain and less storm. And in the current economic climate, when resources are tight, “habitualizing” discovery optimizes your innovation efforts and builds resilience in your organization.

Here are the habits that leaders should implement to create and sustain a culture that turns all team members into innovators:

1. Keep innovation open: Innovation doesn’t live in an ivory tower and isn’t reserved for folks with specific skills or backgrounds. An idea is enough to contribute, so everyone should be encouraged to participate. Providing team members with a framework that outlines what types of ideas are aligned with the business objectives, when is the most appropriate time to bring forward ideas, and where to share those ideas, will help ensure that the flow of ideas isn’t overwhelming and stays focused across a group.

2. Maintain a balanced innovation portfolio: One of the benefits of an innovation culture is that it encourages continuous innovation that brings forward many incremental improvements to your products and services. Don’t dismiss these seemingly small improvements in favor of a big flashy idea. Those small ideas can deliver short-term gains more easily and often and can also often spark bigger ideas that deliver larger wins.

3. Look at the journey, not just the screen: Some of the “easiest” innovation can come from linking gaps in your current experience and considering new opportunities at the “beginning and end” of your customer’s current journey. Look at ways to share data across your offerings or improve internal processes that don’t involve a UI to enhance the customer’s experiences, grow customer retention, and open the door to new competitive spaces.

4. Get more from your research: Invite key customers to participate in trials and beta tests to build loyalty. Not only can this uncover new ideas, but it also helps build your brand awareness, boost sales introductions, and maintain customer accounts. Everyone likes feeling special and, most importantly, heard. Add this tool to your toolkit to help engage the power users of your key customer accounts. 

5. Get from validation to release with no or low-code experiments: Prototype using just enough code that experiments can be “faked” with participants — but you can still receive feedback as if your product was completed. This generates better data on everything from your offering strategy through button placement and allows your delivery team to apply reusable elements to jumpstart development on a validated solution. Ask your experts to look into Design Language Systems, open frameworks and new platforms focused on conceptual exploration like Bubble or TailwindUI.

6. Embed checkpoints: Set the expectation that there will be stakeholder checkpoints throughout to reassure executive team members that projects won’t veer wildly off-course or other key activities aren’t at risk of being disrupted. Checkpoints through the innovation flow are crucial to bringing stakeholders, leaders, and others who “need to know” up to speed at planned intervals so they can make the call to invest further, change, or cancel an experiment.

On the surface, developing innovation habits may seem like you’re removing the spontaneity that we all assume sparks fresh thinking. But the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. An innovation culture, where everyone across teams is empowered to observe and action new sources of opportunities, is the most effective way to take the risk out of ideation. And that will increase the likelihood of big innovation wins. 

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