Companies know that employees play a crucial role in innovative digital successes. But innovation cannot thrive unless the company culture makes room for experimentation and mistakes. NNIT's Expectation Barometer shows that the “error-free” culture is still inhibiting corporate innovation.
Digital innovation cannot be driven by a committed management team alone. The basic element of digital innovation is people, and according to NNIT's Expectation Barometer, 56 % of respondents also believe that employees are the key players in innovation.
– In general, there is an awareness that innovation cannot be separated from the vital role that employees play. In some cases, it is the employees themselves who identify areas that can be optimized digitally, and they often need to take innovative action to preserve their own value within the company, explains Brian Troelsen, Business Development Director of NNIT.
For this reason, it is worth noting that 20% of the participants in the NNIT Expected Barometer believe that their company's biggest cultural challenge is that there is no digital mindset. The culture is simply not geared to digital innovation.
– If the company is not characterized by an innovative culture, work on digital innovation can meet major challenges: Even if digital strategy, IT competencies, and top management support for innovation are all in place, the employees themselves will often have to bring the solutions into the workplace. If they do not feel part of an innovative culture, many companies will miss out on the huge potential in digital innovation, Brian Troelsen emphasizes.
There are a number of things that get in the way of an innovative culture, he points out:
– Rules and regulation are absolutely not good for digital innovation. It's not easy to think "out of the box" if you are working in an error-free culture. So, how are you supposed to implement "fail fast" when failure is not an option? This is a contradiction that can be acutely felt.
One of the basic premises for digital innovation is an experimental approach to work, but experiments can only take place if there is room for failure – and the chance to learn from failure.
Rigid frameworks are especially an issue in highly-regulated industries such as Life Science, but the error-free culture is found in all types of businesses – perhaps mainly in traditional companies with clear command-lines and established processes.
Brian Troelsen recommends that more companies create an incentive-based structure that puts an end to classical hierarchies and silos, and that they also promote cooperation between different departmental and managerial teams. It must also be clearly communicated to employees that innovation is a priority:
– Build up, for example, an innovation lab, appoint ongoing innovation champions, reward innovation with incentive models (both financial and other types of rewards), and above all make it all hard to say no! – Even at management level. This does not mean that you should say yes to everything, but it does mean replacing the classic short answer of "no" – either by asking for further elaboration to open up for and maybe take on the idea, or setting out the good arguments for the "no". If a company works in this way, it will lay the foundations for a culture where there is no need to discuss why you want to innovate, but why you do not want to innovate.
A fundamental change in company culture is of course not an easy task, and especially not when the management team itself is part of the innovation-inhibiting culture.
– Often companies will see a great deal of value in influencing their commercial ecosystem by working together with, for example, start-ups or experienced consultants who dare to take a critical look at the ingrained processes and challenge the "business as usual" mindset, Brian Troelsen explains.
The Expectation Barometer takes the pulse of digital innovation in Danish and international companies. What differences are there – and where? And what does it require – in strategic, technological and organizational terms – to drive digital innovation to even greater heights?
Try the Expectation Barometer and find out what stage your company is at on the road to digital innovation – and get a personal Benchmark Map. You also get access to an article series about the journey of innovation pioneers towards digital transformation success.