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If you’ve been working in a medium or large organisation over the last few years and haven’t heard the word innovation, you’ve been living under a rock (or you were tragically trapped under a fax machine in 2007).

It’s difficult to find an organisation that doesn’t mention innovation somewhere on their website. It might be a ‘pillar’, within a ‘vision statement’ or some other synonym that’s difficult to link to tangible activity. The reason why innovation is mentioned so much is that it’s more than just a buzz word. Innovation is being recognised more and more by organisations as the only way to thrive and survive in today’s markets. So we know it’s important, leaders are talking about it, but why isn’t everyone doing it?

If you’ll indulge me a Peter Drucker reference, we know that what gets measured gets managed – and unless innovation metrics are aligned with performance measurement systems, it will inevitably be ignored. When push comes to shove, employees will focus their efforts on what they’re being measured on.

If innovation is a strategic priority for your organisation (probably a given if you’re reading this post), here are a few tips for how to link your imperative to employee behaviour:

  1. Set realistic expectations. Don’t expect that because you told people innovation is important, they’ll start doing it. Instead, exercise good management practice by providing the right structures for people to succeed. See point 2
  2. Harvard Professor, Clayton Christensen, speaks about the 70/30 rule for how an organisation should distribute it’s efforts across incremental and disruptive innovation. You can apply this thinking to your employees performance metrics. For example, work towards having 70% of your managers’ metrics focus on business as usual (sustaining the existing), with 30% dedicated to innovation activity (the new and different that adds value).
  3. As stated by Scott D. Anthony, et al in ‘The Innovator’s Guide to Growth’, “If innovation isn’t rewarded and isn’t recognised, it will never be a strategic priority”. Some of the most successful innovation reward and recognition programs I’ve seen have been as simple as an annual award. This has worked best when individuals or teams have been recognised not only for the most impactful implemented innovation, but also the most valuable learning that’s been shared with the business through a failed innovation. These programs can be implemented on a smaller scale for teams as well.

I’m always interested to hear how organisations are turning the strategic imperative of innovation into action. If you have a story, a comment, or any questions, I’d love to hear from you! You can find me here – [email protected] or here – @fasttrackjudy. Oh, and you should probably go check on that person stuck under the fax machine.