ENABLING INNOVATION

One year journey toward a creative culture

Client: Medium Sized University

Challenge: As a new leader enters a culture marked by decades of strict leadership styles, unforgiving of mistakes and  protective of agendas, he hoped to encourage the sharing and testing of new ideas from the bottom up. This would also require a change in mindset from being reactive to proactively developing solutions for internal clients.

Outcome: Teams implemented and refined a holistic system that encouraged and protected innovative behaviors. The system included a new rewards system and performance review questions; mechanisms for capturing ideas, a recognition program, a resources repository available to all, a newly designed office space, and mechanisms for safe feedback.

Discovery: The first step included analyzing dozens of interview transcripts around the common barriers and enablers to success in this 100 person university support service. From these interviews, I developed a survey that analyzed employee perceptions around organizational citizenship, collaboration and innovation behaviors, Analysis demonstrated a significant difference in perception between director level and regular employees with regard to supports and mechanisms for innovation. The survey was delivered a year later and demonstrated significant improvements in each of the problem areas that were initially identified.

Dialogue: In reporting survey findings back to directors and senior managers, I facilitated the development of a "Director's Pledge", as a symbol of commitment to innovation. I then recruited members of the department to participate on Action Learning Teams that were based around developing multiple aspects of innovative culture.

Epiphany: Though it was originally assumed that employees believed the climate was not collegial, the ultimate issue preventing innovation was the lack of social and technical enablers that could allow employees to work across functional domains. Once this was accomplished, through Action Learning Teams, the flood gates opened and great ideas continue to funnel through.

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