Many companies and organizations are buzzed about innovation and disruption, but only a few have taken the time to think about what these words actually mean. My definition of innovation consists of two parts. First, an innovation is a novelty product or service—something new, enhanced or improved. Secondly, an innovation provides value—it’s something customers are willing to pay for. Disruption happens when someone changes the rules of the game.
All businesses should be obsessed with relentlessly creating something new and valuable for their customers, but most tend to take the easy route as long as possible. Building an innovative organizational culture is like cycling uphill—it’s a lot of work and may require changing habits formed over decades or generations.
The starting point is very similar to veganism in our society today. Here’s what vegans can teach us about innovation. Don’t see the connection yet? Read on to see what I mean.
Vision drives an innovative organizational culture.
Vegans are driven by the vision of a sustainable world, where there is hope for a healthy planet in the future and where animals aren’t treated with cruelty. My colleague Johan Belin, founder and creative director at Dinahmoe, claims that an organization’s vision needs to be easy to understand, ignite action and inspire people.
A person’s decision to become vegan comes about because they share the desire and vision of a better future world—a shared dream that inspires daily.
Principles matter now more than ever.
Too many corporations use values to show off or pretend. Values are not what companies say—values are what companies do.
A creative process should never start with a blank canvas. There should be defined criteria so a company can work toward a common goal and eventually select the best ideas. It’s best to list your principles rather than your values because they are actionable merit.
For example, vegans follow the principles of healthy living and preserving the earth. Every company should have at least one principle that all the employees believe in and everyone is proud of.
Innovation is an internal, individual thing. Change only happens when an individual decides to do things differently and take responsibility. Corporate growth begins with individual growth. Only you can decide if you want to change, not your boss. However, a leader can shape the culture of innovation by being committed to the vision of the organization and creating infrastructure toward that vision.
Danish architect Bjarke Ingels has coined the term “hedonistic sustainability.” We are more likely to make sustainable purchases when these products and services offer us solutions and pleasure. The rise in veganism can be traced to the same growth in options.
Starting a vegan diet is now easier than ever. There are more meat-substitute products, vegan burgers, vegan convenience food and vegan restaurants than ever before. There’s a developing infrastructure for making vegan choices.
An innovative organizational culture has infrastructure: innovation processes, symbols, plans, projects and rewards that make it easier to take responsibility and make things measurably better.
Case in Points
When legendary industrial designer Dieter Rams was working at Braun, he listed the 10 principles of good design.
- Good design is innovative.
- Good design makes a product useful.
- Good design is aesthetic.
- Good design makes a product understandable.
- Good design is unobtrusive.
- Good design is honest.
- Good design is long-lasting.
- Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
- Good design is environmentally friendly.
- Good design is as little design as possible.