How to develop an innovation culture

industrial-photo-files-1157117Patents, designs and trade secrets these intellectual property rights (IPR) in general are the indicators of innovations. Let us look at these IPR’s as a measure of innovation.

So, the question of how to develop an innovation culture, transforms itself to how to develop an IP culture. Even though innovativeness is an organizational level activity, much of which cannot be protected with these IPR, let us consider the technical side of an organization here, for understanding.

Innovations do not happen in a vacuum. Even in a place where new features, products, or processes are being created IP can slip away and lost. To avoid this, innovations need to be spotted, publicised and rewarded, encouraged, promoted. These key elements help create an innovation culture in an organisation.

The role of all levels of management is critical for developing a culture of innovation – especially the top management. What the top management deems important percolates to the whole organization. Thus, it is essential that the top management demonstrates its commitment to innovation consistently and visibly.

Many who work with technology and innovate, have a tendency to look at their work as solving technical problems and surmounting constraints and hence routine. To make sure that the IPR protectable parts of their work is first spotted, needs someone to help them recognize inventions in their own work. The middle and lower management, when trained to do for this particular task, can play a very important role in spotting work in which IPR subsists. Otherwise, it is a good idea to hire experts who have the required technical knowledgeable and who are IP savvy. They can periodically review the work done in the organization and help mine the IPR protectable innovations. This, in other words, is spotting innovations.

Once such innovations are spotted, management should take the necessary actions to secure IPR. That is, apply for a patent or a registered design or decide to keep it a trade secret. Again, this needs a dedicated internal team to take care of all the processes or the assistance of an external team offering such services. Once a patent is applied for, for instance, it must be made well known to everyone in the organization. That is, innovations, and hence innovators, need to be given publicity. This could be in the form of internal magazine or newsletter, a poster or some such means.

It is a well-recognised fact, that what gets rewarded will be repeated. So, an organization should have a clearly defined policy of rewarding innovators. The details of the policy depend on the state of an organization.  In the early stages inventors who submit an invention disclosure for patenting may be rewarded. And they may get a further reward if a patent application based on their invention is made. And a final reward be given if the patent is granted. But in an organization where the innovation culture is more mature may have a policy with rewards for only the last two elements mentioned.

Rewards themselves are a form of encouragement. However, an organization can use other means to encourage innovation. Promoting innovators to publish articles in related technical journals. This not only brings peer recognition, both inside and outside the organization, for the innovators but also advertises the innovative culture of the organisation.

The organisation must also measure innovation and bublicise the results. What gets measured gets done!

This article, though very short, gives an idea about what it takes to create a culture of innovation. We at LexOrbis, are associated with many organisations, big and small, to help them develop a culture of innovation.