Culture of innovation: sketch with starting sprinter - managementberatung | coaching
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Organisational Development | Culture of Innovation

Creative and structured. Impulses for a structured innovation process.

From Sabine Walter, Head of network management consulting | coaching

In our last article, "Enemies of Innovation", we referred to the Global Innovation Index Report 2019 and outlined why Germany's innovative strength ranks only 9th out of a total of 129 countries, well behind Switzerland, Sweden, the USA and the UK - to name just a few countries. The reasons for this lie in very different areas: Education in schools and universities, access to capital, but also in companies we often have an insufficient culture of innovation. In our article, we give impulses on how you can improve this.

Innovation: Definition

"Innovation" is derived from the Latin word "innovare", to renew. An innovation is therefore a renewal. In the entrepreneurial sense, innovation means an idea that has been successfully introduced to the market.

Interdisciplinary teams: Set Flexible teams with different professional and national backgrounds. Consciously ensure that different generations work together. Set on Career changer and in doing so, they also promote networked thinking, the continuous learning.

The innovation process

The innovation process comprises six phases:

  • the idea phase
  • the concept phase
  • The development phase
  • the test phase
  • the manufacturing phase
  • the market introduction phase

All phases of this innovation process have to be gone through.

Innovation process - the individual phases

Idea phase

In the idea phase, the focus is on in the first step on quantity. The aim is to generate ideas - without evaluation - that contribute to the further development of at least one field of innovation.

In order to take only the idea(s) with the highest innovation potential into the conception phase, all ideas are evaluated in a second step based on defined criteria assessed. It's about quality.

Classic Stumbling blocks in this phase are that Idea collection and idea evaluation are not separated. The result is that there are too few ideas and the people who come up with ideas are quickly frustrated because they feel that their ideas are not really being heard.

In many companies there is a process of company suggestion scheme. In our work we very often experience, that this process neither contributes to innovation nor to improving the culture of innovation, as

  • The people who are supposed to evaluate the ideas do so only half-heartedly.
  • The idea generators wait too long for their feedback or get none at all.
  • Very often the same ideas come up that have little innovation potential
  • Ideas that could normally be implemented directly in everyday life, even if they only bring about small improvements, get bogged down in the lengthy process
  • The responsibility to innovate is handed over to the "process".
  • Successes about implemented ideas are insufficiently communicated.

Innovation process - the individual phases

Concept and development phase

In the Concept phase ideas with innovation potential are further developed in such a way that, building on them in the development phase, for example, the Development of a prototype is possible. Both phases are closely linked, and if blockages or restrictions occur during development, it is quite common to go back to the concept phase to resolve these bottlenecks. If the solution is not possible, ideas may not be taken further at this point.

Particularly in our times, when technologies are developing very quickly, it is advisable that companies look at such ideas again at intervals. Perhaps the development of a prototype can be brought to fruition at a later date or with external cooperation partners.

In our experience, what many companies do not make sufficient use of in these two phases for fear of "idea theft" are development partnerships. Perhaps the idea cannot be developed into a prototype with the company's own know-how, but perhaps with the know-how of external specialists.

Innovation process - the individual phases

Test phase

The test or pilot phase is used to test prototypes, new services or approaches in such a way that the innovation potential can be confirmed, weaknesses can be uncovered and remedied. It is about learning and getting information also about customers that should be considered when launching a product.

For cost reasons, this phase is often shortened in companies or the company deliberately tests only in the "fan club".in other words, in a benevolent and positive environment. Both are mistakeswhich can also be the end of a good idea and thus of an innovation. In order not to make these mistakes, the test phase can also be linked to a independent institute are handed over. They ensure that tests are carried out in the right markets or with a well-selected target group, they evaluate independently and usually also have sound expertise to make valuable recommendations at the end of the test phase.

Another way to test are Reallabs. Especially for innovations in the field of digitalisation, these test rooms offer a good infrastructure.

Furthermore, the opportunity that lies in a test phase is often misunderstood. If a company has a product tested, it receives a lot of information in this phase that can perhaps lead to innovations in the field of "service" or "distribution channel" or "touch points" or "brand" or "emotion". In concrete terms this means: Which services around the product would still be helpful? Through which channel should we let customers get in touch with our product? What works? What does not work? How is our brand perceived by the new product in the test market? What do we learn from this? These are just a few questions to which a good test can provide answers.

Innovation process - the individual phases

Production phase

In the manufacturing phase, the product or service goes into "series production". In this phase the Focus on the productivity or scalability of processes. The aim of the manufacturing phase is also to prepare the market launch as well as possible.

Innovation process - the individual phases

Market launch phase

With the successful Market launch the idea becomes an innovation. It is not only a central phase to measure the economic success of the innovation, but above all to Learn for future innovation processes. What worked during the market launch? What did not? What can we incorporate into future innovation processes as "lessons learned"?

This "review" and the recording of "lessons learned" is generally recommended at the end of each phase of the innovation process. Because only if the innovation process is also part of the continuous development and learning culture of a company will the quality of innovation and its economic success also increase.

In which areas can a company be innovative?

In principle, a company can be innovative in all areas. We list traditional fields of innovation with the associated questions.

Innovation field structure / organisation

Revenue model

The central question in this field of innovation is: "What do we, as a company, want to earn money with in the future?

In various sectors, the question of the revenue model has been raised several times in recent years. The car manufacturers have, for example, with FREE NOW (the former my taxi) or DriveNow new business and revenue models brought onto the market, where the mobility and not the sale of vehicles in the focus stands. Airbnb has shaken up the hotel market with its offer.

Amazon is constantly questioning and expanding its business model. The company now earns most of its money by renting out servers and offering IT services. Netflix, originally a video mail order company, is now an internationally recognised entertainment group.

These examples should make clear to you what this field of innovation is all about.

How is our society developing? What will be the main problems to be solved? What are customers willing to spend money on? What opportunities arise from the new technologies? What role does digitalisation play in your future business model?

These are all questions that need to be asked and answered in this field of innovation.

Innovation field structure / organisation

Core and support processes

In these two fields of innovation, everything revolves around processes:

  • How do we organise our value chain so that we remain competitive in the long term?
  • What support processes do we need to ensure that our core processes function smoothly in the future, and how must these be designed?

The area of support processes also includes, for example, all processes and concepts related to employer branding, training and development, leadership culture as well as innovation and learning culture.

Innovation field organisation / structure


Cooperations play a major role when it comes to improving the culture of innovation in the company. They can play a decisive role in getting ideas into the company. Cooperation partners that are suitable for this are, for example, universities with their spin-offs, Fraunhofer institutes, research centres, futurologists, trend scouts, relevant consultancies. But also Cooperations with clients can lead to improving the innovation culture and, above all, the innovation rate of companies.

Innovation field Range of services

Products / Product systems

These two fields of innovation are often used as synonyms for innovation in many companies, but they are only two of the ten fields in which companies can innovate.

The central questions to be answered are:

  • Products: How do we ensure that our products are benchmarks on the market?
  • Product systems: How can we interconnect our products to create additional value/benefits?

The biggest challenge is often to break away from existing products and the familiar fields of application and to think laterally or networked and from the user's point of view. One process or approach that helps with this is the Design Thinking. If companies "stick" too much to the status quo, they will bring product improvements to the market everywhere, but no innovations.

Innovation field customer experience

Services / Service

Services and service offerings can stand on their own and form their own revenue model, but they can also support customers in using the products. Therefore, a central question in this field of innovation is: How do we ensure benchmarkable support for customers in the use of our products?

Innovation field customer experience

Distribution channels / Touch points

The central question at the heart of this field of innovation is: How, when and where will the customer come into contact with our products and services in the future?

Innovation field customer experience

Brand & Emotion

These two fields of innovation are closely linked. The innovation field of brand is about finding ways to make corporate brands strong brands. For this to succeed, it is important that customers identify with a company's products and services (innovation field "emotion"). Apple, Amazon, Google, BMW, Bosch, Adidas, Ritter Sport, Haribo, Nivea, dm Drogeriemarkt, Lego are some examples of strong brands in the B2C sector. In the B2B area, these include SAP, the Bertelsmann Group's arvato, RATIONAL from Landsberg am Lech, EVONIK .

All experiences a customer has with a company, including complaints and grievance processes - often neglected and outsourced to external service centres - contribute to branding and the customer emotions associated with the brand.

The fields of innovation we have outlined give you an idea of the areas in which you can be innovative. For this, it is important that innovative thinking becomes a matter of course in your company.

How can you promote innovative thinking in the team?

There are numerous innovation techniques, such as design thinking, that they can use in the company. However, from our point of view, seven things are central:

  • A constructive error and Argument culture: Mistakes are allowed. They are part of a learning and development process. Also Mistakes offer an opportunity for innovation. The Post-it's of 3M are an example of this. A good dispute culture is also elementary. Arguing about the cause, about the best idea. Arguing as an opportunity and not out of rejection. This only works if there is trust.
  • Interdisciplinary teams: Create flexible teams with different professional and national backgrounds. Make sure that different generations work together. Make use of lateral entrants and thereby also promote networked thinking, which is a key factor in the success of a project. continuous learning.
  • External idea providers: Promote exchange with cooperation partners. Ensure that External idea providers, such as trend scouts and researchers, come to your company and present things. Promote the Cooperation with universities and research institutes. Actively offer your employees the Visit trade fairs an.
  • The art of asking questions: Improving the art of questioning is not costly, but very effective in generating ideas. As a general rule: Solution-focused questions are asked. "How do we...?" "How can we ...?" "How do we ...?" "How will ...?" Furthermore, it is about, about the Asking the obvious. The point is this, to ask deliberately broad or deliberately focussed questions. Let me explain this with an example. There is a difference if you ask: "How do we create a paperless office?" or "What communication and decision-making processes do we need to change and how in order to go paperless in the office?" The first question is very open. The second question is more focused, but more in-depth.
  • Visualise key questions: Questions have power. They trigger thought processes. Conscious or subconscious. Therefore, it also supports when you visualise central issues that you as a company would like to solve through innovations within the company. Employees consciously or subconsciously perceive these questions and think about them.
  • Creative and play spaces: Set up Creative and play spaces in your company. Playing can create something new.
  • A structured innovation process: All employees in the company should know the innovation process. There should be a team in the company that continuously takes care of the compliance and further development of this innovation process. The innovation process should be easy for everyone to use and should not leave room for it to be bypassed because of its complexity.

Conclusion Innovation

Introducing a culture of innovation is a cultural change for companies

You can see from the length of the article how extensive the topic of "innovation" is. Introducing a culture of innovation or increasing the innovative power of a company is therefore not a project, but a profound cultural change. This has to be prepared accordingly and also accompanied by experienced facilitators or organisational developers. Innovation is written down as a value in many companies. Very few companies live it. In many cases, a constructive culture of error is already lacking. But that is the beginning of innovation.

Your next step towards an improved innovation culture

A start for an improved innovation culture or more innovative strength is a improved error culture. With our "Error Culture Quick Check" you will gain a condensed view of the current situation and already receive impulses where improvements can be made.

Quick Check Error Culture

Your next step: organisational development

If you want to increase the innovative power of your company, we should talk about organisational development.

However, training in creative methods such as design thinking is not the first step. Rather, the first step is to analyse and improve the basis of trust in your organisation.

A strong foundation of trust is crucial for healthy, innovative organisations. Only when the trust is strong enough will it be possible to cultural change towards more creativity, responsibility and innovation. This then also includes the development of a vision, the elaboration of a strategy and derivation of the goals as well as the definition of the relevant milestones.

You want to initiate the change? Then get in touch with us:

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