Insights from the Experts, Growth Labs Series with Joe Kerschbaum, SVP of Search & Growth Labs

Innovation doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. When most people think about innovation, the first thing that comes to mind is “new ideas.” That isn’t entirely wrong, but it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to moving an organization forward into the future. Driving change within any organization requires creativity, clarity, purpose, and persistence. This type of sustainable and constant evolution requires something deeper: a culture of innovation within any organization.

That culture of innovation requires commitment from every level of the organization. Executives have to make innovation a strategic priority and actually “walk the talk.” This means allocating resources to support innovation and experimentation, allowing team members the margin and freedom to think creatively, and incentivizing all teams to set innovation milestones. And managers who encourage their teams to push for creativity will not only drive long-term business growth, but also develop new skills for their direct reports. If a culture of innovation is going to thrive, it must be encouraged, nurtured, and celebrated throughout the organization.

True innovation is the result of sustained focus and attention. Within most organizations, especially a fast-paced growth marketing agency like 3Q Digital, the majority of team members are focused on executing their day-to-day duties. There isn’t the margin for the research, planning, and organization required to create innovation – especially at scale. This is why 3Q Digital’s culture of innovation is maintained by our Growth Labs team – to ensure we have champions for the future who are always staying ahead of industry trends for the benefit of our clients.

Culture isn’t something that can be established in a slide deck or a meeting. It has to be nurtured and encouraged to grow organically, but with guidance and leadership. If you suspect that innovation isn’t part of your company culture, here are some ideas that have proven successful for us.

#1 – Broadcast a Clear Vision

If you just wait and hope that innovation happens by accident, you will likely continue to wait. You need to identify what innovation looks like in your company and announce that innovation is a strategic priority for everyone. The team needs to understand WHY future-focused change needs to occur in the organization. Only when everyone buys in and begins to contribute and collaborate can a culture of innovation begin to emerge.

#2 – Establish Clear Ownership

Everyone in your organization should contribute to innovation projects. However, as the saying goes, “if everyone owns something, then no one owns it.” Sustainable innovation and evolution within an organization needs to have clear owners. This doesn’t mean that these owners will run every project – rather, they should serve as the central hub of innovation and change management. By dedicating their focus, these individuals will be better positioned to ensure that innovative projects are guiding the company in the right direction for the long-term.

#3 – Get Everyone Onboard and Invested

Innovation can accelerate when everyone is involved in creating the change. When team members know that they have ownership in the project, they are more invested in making sure any new ideas/products can be as successful as possible. This way, you also establish a culture of collaboration rather than just dictating new policy changes that feel like red tape and bureaucracy.

#4 – Encourage Cross-Team Collaboration

Breaking teams out of their silos has numerous benefits. It allows everyone to get a new and alternative perspective on similar projects, new perspectives can lead to growth. Team members get to work with folks they may not be familiar with and build positive relationships. New perspectives and collaboration like this should be looked at as the petri dish for innovative ideas. Within digital agencies, this means that client teams should share strategy and data regularly and discuss ideas across channels. These conversations will lead to the birth of new and more strategic ideas.

#5 – Provide Consistent Communication

If you don’t talk about innovation all the time, then it will get lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day operations of any organization. Executives have to champion your innovation efforts and your innovation owners need to communicate on a very regular basis. This communication can include education/training, experimentation briefs, testing outcomes, case studies, staying up to date on industry news, and regularly sharing POVs. The conversation has to be constantly kept alive and invigorated. Otherwise, you may lose sight of your innovation mandate.

#6 – Take Time to Celebrate!

It’s important to recognize that constant innovation is no easy task. It requires creativity, persistence, analysis, and change management. Oftentimes, individuals contribute to innovation projects on top of their rigorous daily duties. When a new idea, product, or experiment is successful – make sure to celebrate and broadcast the win! When team members see success, they are often inspired and want to take part in the new idea.

Motivated teams will want to participate in the next innovation or experiment because they want to be recognized for their efforts. Everyone wins! This is how innovation gains momentum within a company’s culture.

Owning Your Innovation

As you can see, fostering a culture of innovation doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. You have to be purposeful and consistent in your efforts to create innovation and drive change within your organization. Innovation is fun, rewarding, and will drive huge gains for your organization while at the same time ensuring you remain ahead of the competition. Stay tuned for our next entry in this blog series, where we’ll go more in-depth on how you can create a thorough innovation and experimentation process within your own organization!

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