Creating a Sustainable Culture of Innovation

Criterion Systems | Sponsorship

Creating a Sustainable Culture of Innovation

By Bob Heckman, CISO

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at the Nevada IT Symposium in Las Vegas on the subject “Innovation: How to Think Disruptively.”  Joining me were the CIO of Wynn Resorts and the Director of Technology & Innovation for the City of Las Vegas.  As you can imagine, it was a wide-ranging discussion, from how to make innovation practical and sellable to executive management to identifying and hiring unconventional talent.  We ended by proposing ideas on how to create a sustainable culture of innovation.

I think it is important to acknowledge how over-used the word “innovation” has become.  It has no fixed definition, and in some sense, has become a meaningless buzzword.  I think we can reclaim it by keeping the focus on disruptive technology and how it could impact our businesses down the line.  More precisely, we must understand how social, mobile, analytics, cloud, the internet of things, and virtual reality can be applied to our industry, and then work to beat the competition at developing solutions our customers actually want…not necessarily those that are best for our company.

This is tricky. We must move away from celebrating innovation as the new, sexy gadget, app, approach, or business model, and focus on showing the impact and delivered value of innovation to the organization: ROI-based innovation is sustainable innovation. It must solve, or prevent, a problem or provide a shortcut to a tangible anticipated result (e.g., a new revenue stream or an enhanced customer experience).  It demands a true understanding of our customers.  In fact, I would suggest you create an Innovation Lab or Task Force to keep an eye on evolving technology, monitor changes in consumers’ behavior and model future needs. The Innovation Lab’s goal would be to focus on future value creation and solve future problems, four to five years from today. We at Criterion are doing this via our Centers of Excellence in Cyber Security and Agile Software Development.

Innovation starts with corporate culture, and it is the people of an organization that create that culture. Therefore, it is crucial to invest in the right people to get the job done and give them the tools and resources to leverage their skills.  And it is these skills, particularly unconventional skills, that generate the ideas and the follow-through on bringing those ideas to life. Organizations need to hire and promote people with diverse skillsets, backgrounds, and cultures who believe in big ideas for how your company can change the world.  Then, give them an incubation center to explore and promote their ideas.  Remember, the most innovative behaviors revolve around human interaction: collaboration, mentorships, and the sharing of a vision.

Sustainable innovation is not a comfortable process.  Innovation by its very nature is change, and change creates emotional reactions.  Sustainable innovation demands a corporate culture that is founded on collaboration and trust, a celebration of new ideas and the financial support of those ideas.  It must be visibly embraced at all levels of the organization.  I am proud to work for a company that lives by these guidelines.

Our panel discussion was lively and I enjoyed sharing these ideas with my co-panelists and the audience.  I would be happy to hear from you regarding these ideas and welcome others you may like to share.