The Role of Leadership in Building Agile Culture
Research shows that a company-wide approach to innovation yields more ideas. However, leaders still have an integral role to play, particularly when cultivating agile cultures.
Agility in business means that one can adapt quickly to both internal and external changes. When embraced fully, this allows organizations to stay ahead of the competition and keep evolving through generating customer-centric ideas.
Here's how leaders can effectively shape the atmosphere and drive innovation in their organizations.
Making innovation accessible to all
For your organization to achieve true agility, a constant flow of ideas is essential. It is very likely that intrapreneurship will flourish if top-level leaders are set to lead and encourage a company-wide innovation buy-in by the organization.
Bottom-up innovation ensures that ideas come from people who are close to the problems as well as the consumers. Crucially, a leader who celebrates agile innovation will ensure that employees can work on their ideas while they are still fresh. This is a far better approach than limiting innovation to a mere weekly two-hour window.
Ensuring that intrapreneurs want to innovate
Building an agile culture isn’t only reliant on being able or allowed to innovate. Creativity also requires energy and the right mindset. Leadership teams must build an environment where employees are incentivized to innovate. There are many ways to achieve this.
Firstly, making people value the company's mission is vital. Meanwhile, tracking all ideas and rewarding all contributions, rather than only the “big idea”, can have a huge impact in incentivising everyone to innovate.
Reframing failure as a part of the process
Creating an environment where everyone feels safe to innovate also means removing some of the barriers to innovation, such as having to seek approval before developing or testing ideas. If the organization is to accept autonomy, though, it must also accept failure.
Psychological safety can be further supported by feedback loops. Formats like “Friday failures” — an open discussion about everyone’s weekly mistakes and lowlights — should be encouraged. Meanwhile, even successful innovations require an iterative approach. Acknowledging that even small changes and incremental innovations may be the key to success will naturally keep the collective mindset in a flexible place.
Providing clarity of purpose
Within an agile culture, adaptation to internal and external changes is key. However, the focus must also remain on the organization's innovation objectives. Ideas should be objectively judged based on their feasibility, contextuality, customer desirability, and viability.
Furthermore, the main driving forces of innovation are improved customer experiences, revenue growth, and product development. Leadership teams must ensure that all intrapreneurs keep these factors in mind, while simultaneously maintaining the energy and creativity to work on new ideas. Crucially, moving away from product-focused to customer-centric methodologies can create a culture where organizations are ready to adapt.
Encouraging employees to experiment
Agile innovation thrives under the ability to try new ideas and approaches. Experimentation must consequently become a key feature in an organization’s approach to corporate innovation. Leaders need to ensure that employees are positioned to do this well.
With platforms like KICKBOX, experimentation is encouraged and facilitated. Meanwhile, data visualization can accelerate the prototyping and testing stages. This can help organizations identify failures and learn from them quickly. More importantly, it accelerates the path to product release. Not least because iterative approaches mean that software patches and other updates can be released at a later date.
Facilitating collaborative efforts
Corporate innovation doesn't only work better when there is a company-wide buy-in. It also requires teams to work with each other. This allows the organization to tap into a collective knowledge base.
KICKBOX doesn’t only connect colleagues to other teams within the business. It can also help them gain advice from other innovators (so-called Kickboxers). Collaborative efforts also extend to involving the customers, as has been shown by initiatives like the My Starbucks Idea scheme. Either way, innovation becomes more agile when multiple perspectives are taken into account and the collective mindset is focused on the innovation at hand, rather than taking credit for it.
Leading by example
Finally, a leader cannot expect employees to embrace agile methods if they are not prepared to do it themselves.
Leading by example enables leaders to see when something isn’t quite right or hinders the flow of creativity. Actions speak louder than words, and an agile leader that is ready to tap into his/her creativity and collaborate with others will strengthen the overall attitude towards innovation in the company. When employees are inspired to follow in their leader's footsteps, the rate of idea generation should increase.
Take control with KICKBOX
While agile innovation requires the right mindset, having the right tools in place will make a huge difference. The real-time and collaborative features of KICKBOX, make this employee innovation program suitable to any organization wanting to adopt a more agile method of work and empower employees to innovate.