"Why Iteration is not Innovation"

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Building a culture of innovation takes 2,000,000 steps… kinda

“How do we become more innovative” — it’s a question we’re asked by clients, friends, collaborators, you name it. People know they need to innovate to keep their companies competitive, but they’re not sure what steps they should be taking to get there.

It’s 2 million steps… but not in the way you’re thinking.

I tell them, “you don’t lose 10 pounds by walking 2,000,000 steps in one day… you lose 10 pounds by walking 10,000 steps every day for 200 days.”

The same is true of building a culture of innovation.

Building a Culture of Innovation: A Step-by-Step Journey

Innovation isn’t a single, grand event; it’s the result of consistent, daily efforts that collectively transform an organization’s culture until it becomes baked into the very DNA of the place. 

Just as you can’t physically walk multiple millions of steps in a single day, you also can’t create a culture of innovation in one fell swoop. Instead, it requires a steady, intentional approach that prioritizes innovation at every step in your project’s or company’s journey.

The Myth of the Moonshot

Many businesses fall into the trap of believing that they can achieve innovation through a one-time, large-scale effort. They pour resources into a single project, hoping for a game-changing outcome. While moonshot projects can sometimes stick the landing, they’re neither a sustainable nor reliable strategy. True innovation is incremental. It’s about making small, consistent changes that accumulate over time to create a substantial impact. Only when you’ve changed the mindset of your organization can you achieve continuous innovation.

Culture is Key

What we’re really talking about is corporate culture. You can set the mission and core values of your company — why not choose “innovation” as one of them?

To do that, it requires a commitment to encouraging and rewarding innovative thinking. This means fostering an environment where employees feel empowered to experiment, take risks, and learn from failures. Innovation should be seen not as a sporadic event but as a continuous process that involves everyone in the organization.

Start by setting clear expectations and goals related to innovation. Encourage your team to think creatively and provide them with the resources and support they need to turn their ideas into reality.

Leading by Example

As a leader, you play a crucial role in shaping your company’s culture. If you want to build a culture of innovation, you have to lead by example. Be the ambassador of innovation in your organization. Show your team that you value and reward innovative thinking by celebrating successes and learning from failures.

Your commitment to innovation will set the tone for the rest of the company. When employees see that their leaders are dedicated to fostering innovation, they are more likely to embrace it themselves. This creates a ripple effect that can transform the entire organization.

Small Wins Matter

Just as losing weight involves celebrating small milestones, building a culture of innovation involves recognizing and celebrating small wins. These small successes can boost morale and motivate your team to keep pushing forward. They also provide valuable learning opportunities that can help refine and improve your innovation processes.

Make it a point to acknowledge and reward innovative efforts, no matter how small. This could be through formal recognition programs, bonuses, or simply taking the time to personally thank and congratulate employees for their contributions.

Long-Term Commitment

Building a culture of innovation is a long-term commitment. It won’t happen overnight, and there will be challenges along the way. Just as you can’t moonshot your way to innovation, you also can’t just say “we prize innovation now” and leave it at that. You have to consistently prioritize and foster innovation. It takes work from the top down to really change a culture (or to simply embrace a new aspect of it). But if you do these things, you can create a sustainable culture that drives continuous improvement and growth.

Remember, the journey to becoming an innovative company is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to embrace change. But the rewards are well worth the effort. A culture of innovation can lead to increased competitiveness, improved efficiency, and a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Practical Steps to Foster Innovation

  1. Encourage Collaboration: Create opportunities for cross-functional teams to work together and share ideas. Diverse perspectives can lead to more creative solutions.
  2. Provide Resources: Ensure that your team has access to the tools, technology, and training they need to innovate effectively.
  3. Set Clear Goals: Define what innovation means for your organization and set measurable goals to track progress.
  4. Celebrate Successes: Recognize and reward innovative efforts to reinforce the importance of innovation within your company.
  5. Learn from Failures: Encourage a culture where failures are seen as learning opportunities rather than setbacks.
  6. Lead by Example: Demonstrate your commitment to innovation through your actions and decisions.

By taking these steps and committing to the journey, you can build a culture of innovation that drives long-term success for your organization. Just like walking those 10,000 steps every day, it’s the consistent, daily efforts that will ultimately lead to significant, lasting change.


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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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