Changing Innovation Culture by Doing — Three Reasons It Doesn’t Happen

basadur_large_2Innovation culture doesn’t change with assessment or analysis.

You can learn a great deal about who you are and what your culture is like with the various assessment tools, but knowing isn’t changing. I’m a huge fan of KEYS, FourSight, and other assessment tools but they are not the answer.

Training can help, but training alone will not do the job either.

What changes innovation culture then?

Doing. You change culture by Doing. 

When employees are empowered to solve problems and those solutions are put into play, it’s motivating. It changes hearts and minds. And it changes them faster than anything else. Min Basadur says it’s the only way a culture will change. I agree with Min. Min’s been around the innovation space. Starting at P&G he’s done some amazing work both commercially and as a researcher of innovation process. I caught up with Min a few weeks ago at the CPSI conference and asked him about changing culture by doing, see his pithy remarks in a video clip here.

So, why aren’t more innovation culture change initiatives based on doing real world problem solving projects? Here are three reasons it’s doesn’t happen:

  1. Leadership wants a culture change, but doesn’t actually want to change behaviour. It’s a bit like Rob Ford the Toronto Mayor. He’ll go to rehab but when he comes out no change has occurred.  You have to want to change for change to occur. Leadership needs to empower innovation managers to do more. Too much controlling leadership is almost worse than a laissez-faire attitude. Leaders need to ask that particular problems be solved, and then, get the hell out of the way. Then they need to embrace results be they positive or not.
  2. Not enough problem finding (Suggestion: Do Challenge Mapping). It’s counter-intuitive but really, if you’re not looking for problems you’re missing the biggest opportunities for innovation. Why is this not done? Lack of courage. This is often the reason cultures don’t change. I’m speaking of the fear of facing the very toughest, thorniest challenges. We are all great avoiders of those things that frankly require a lot of very hard work. Creative problem solving is not about water guns and balloons. At the heart of it, it’s about finding — actively seeking — very fearsome challenges and taking the time to research, analyze, and properly frame just what the problem is. Challenge Mapping* can be arduous work, and, it has a gigantic payoff once you pay that price. This is the work that is rarely done well. People are so anxious to get into idea generation they short shrift the pre-work necessary to make it truly effective.
  3. Procrastination in the form of culture assessment. Look, I’m all for innovation culture assessment, I do it! It can be a valuable step in learning what exactly needs to change in an innovation culture. However, a company that spends six months to a year assessing culture is avoiding change. This is innovation procrastination. Do the assessments, AND, get started on a project at the same time.

KILN USA is firmly in the camp of changing culture by doing, that’s why we invented a hands-on tool called IdeaKeg, and a project “do” cycle called FuseTrail. But don’t listen to us, listen to the wise words of an old master, the most successful innovation advisor I know — Min Basadur — and start changing your innovation culture by doing. Per Min — find a thorny problem, research it, challenge map it, jam some ideas, and get into action.

  • Challenge Mapping is a process where you start with one question and you reframe it using the questions of Why, and What’s Stopping You. You reframe, reframe, and reframe, and you end up with a hierarchical map of highly strategic conceptual questions and at the other end, very tactical, pragmatic questions. It’s hard work, but it’s very satisfying and your result will be a clear picture of what you might choose to do.


Posted in Creative Problem Solving (CPS), Idea Generation, Innovation, Leadership, Teams, Training