“Hierarchy often destroys good ideas because teams do not want to dissent with the leader”

Manish Bhatnagar, MD, SKF India, on five ways to foster a culture of innovation 

Published 3 years ago on Jan 01, 2021 1 minute Read

Create an innovation metric: Metrics drive behaviour, so find ones that make people compete for glory. Try “revenue from new products” or “new ideas generated” or just about anything that makes people feel they have achieved something tangible in addition to being innovative. Metrics also help separate vanity projects from the real, impactful ones.

Kick out bureaucracy: Stamp out all the processes and approvals that stifle innovation. Let people loose without having to take multiple approvals from managers who are scared to take risks and will therefore question every step in the innovation cycle. That said, there are some elements of bureaucracy that help with predictability and consistency, so be thoughtful about what elements to retain and what to trash.

Learn from others: Find examples of innovation from industries very different from yours, and ask teams to reflect on what they would change to adapt it to your industry. Encourage your teams to have the humility to learn from others and not fall into the “not invented here” trap.

Celebrate failure: Let the team know that failure is an option. In fact, it should even be encouraged and celebrated. Risk is a critical factor for innovation and success, and recognising that all risks come with chances of failure is an important building block of the cultural fabric for innovation.

Speak last: As a leader, be aware of the power of your words. Be careful not to speak so early that your thoughts are taken as direction without the teams building on their own ideas. Hierarchy often destroys good ideas because teams do not want to dissent with the leader. So, be thoughtful on when to provide your opinion.