Commmunicating Innovation

Communicating a Commitment to Innovation​

Just as the culture of each organization is unique, the approach to innovation in each organization is different. There is no one right way or one best path. There are, in fact, multiple paths for our organizations to achieve innovative cultures. However, a key element identified as a differentiator for more effective innovative companies includes a commitment to innovation by top management. And this commitment must be clearly communicated throughout the organization. Samsung is well known for its management program launched in 1993. This initiative altered the culture of the firm to focus on innovation—starting a period of exceptional company growth. This management program was a mechanism by which Samsung widely communicated the importance of innovation.

Communication is essential in fostering a culture of innovation. And top management plays a critical role here. It must clearly and continuously communicate that innovation matters. This is not a once-a-year announcement or a corporate value written in a marketing piece or distributed on a laminated wallet card. It is a living, ongoing commitment that is discussed routinely and is broadly known throughout the organization. Top management's role is to keep innovation on our agenda all the time.

3M understands the importance of clearly communicating a continuous commitment to innovation. Every year it specifically targets a portion of its annual sales that are expected to come from products that were launched within the past four years. This innovation target becomes a part of the company's strategic plan and is widely discussed throughout the organization.

Simply describing innovation or identifying innovative target goals is not enough. This commitment to innovation must be communicated in what we do as well. The nonverbal elements of communication become just as powerful (and perhaps more powerful) than what company leadership says. When Intuit created the position of vice president of innovation, it sent a clear signal of its commitment. Budgeting for innovation signals its importance, and setting aside discretionary funds for projects that may arise in the future speaks volumes. Providing rewards and recognition for innovation sends the message about what is valued in the organization.

Communicating a commitment to innovation means that we must embrace the culture of trust and transparency across the organization.

Excerpted from Patricia M. Buhler, Destination Innovation: HR's Role in Charting the Course​ (SHRM, 2015).

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