Developing a Culture of Innovation

Here at Pecan we have been working with clients for many years to develop the culture they want to be successful.

In the HE sector the need to innovate for students is gaining pace and so we thought it would be good to share some practical tips from some of our clients who are doing this successfully.

One of the common blocks to innovation is the idea that it must involve whizzy IT or making something new. Wrong! Innovation is a mindset and it can happen at any level for any task or process. It doesn’t need budget or project plans, it’s about encouraging people to think about what needs to improve or change in their area and then empowering them to get on with it.

Here are some other tips….

Be honest about what you are good at – then partner for things you are not

A client wanted to bring student comms and engagement into the digital age, giving students an enhanced experience and a better fit with their lifestyle. Knowing that digital innovation was not a strength, they partnered with a digital specialist to establish a joint innovation team and fast-track a priority product within an overall roadmap thus learning quickly from the off.

Be careful about who you have on your team

Hire people who are inherently enquiring and who have energy to explore and investigate. For some parts of the HE sector this is a very different animal and maybe perceived as maverick so think carefully about how to integrate them and whether to ring-fence to ensure their thinking is not contaminated by the status quo.

Have leaders create and role model an environment in which innovation is possible

Leaders need to lead innovatively and recognise innovation. For some this will be a big shift in mindset from traditional ‘knowledge is power’ to ‘I don’t know but let’s explore it!’.

Then communicate about innovation with the same level of passion as academic subject matter and celebrate it where you see it taking place, no matter how small – it’s the spirit that counts at this stage.

Establish physical and time spaces to create, test and learn

Set up conditions for different ways of thinking and working and give the team specific issues to think through from a fresh standpoint. Make the emphasis on trying new ways of working (rather than just talking about them and planning them) and capture learning through that experience. Momentum creates a change in energy and fuels the imagination

Rally a joint team around a very clear goal and a clear purpose for each element of that goal

Build cross-functional or cross-partner teams focused on a single, well-defined goal as their purpose. Make innovation what they do as their day job, as opposed to something in addition to their already packed schedule or that they are expected to fit in during ‘down time’

Embed new ways of working

Innovative ways of working that are more agile, pacey and outcome-focused. Meetings are a simple example – they take up a lot of time and all too often people find them frustrating, energy-draining and questionable in terms of the outcomes they achieve. Make sure they all have a strict structure – purpose, outcomes, clear who the decision-makers are, clear who leaves accountable for what.
Other clients have deliberately injected urgency into core communication processes, using concise language, asking clear questions, fast listening, fast response.

Are you innovative enough for your students?

Here are three questions to contemplate

  • What kind of people are you hiring into key roles? Do they have a naturally enquiring mind?
  • What physical and time spaces do you create for innovation to thrive?
  • How effective are your meetings? Do they result in clear accountability, a focus on outcomes and pace?

Speak to us and find out how to encourage greater innovation across your teams. 

Image: unsplash.com

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