This blog post is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.
Most organizations want to enhance innovation; to achieve this goal they invest resources in new methodologies, technologies, training, physical spaces, and furniture.
This is great…
However, they often forget that they also need to invest in internal communication. This oversight can be very expensive because it is very difficult—if not impossible—to develop innovative ideas and practices within an organization without a good internal communication strategy.
This is why practitioners have to explain to companies how internal communication can help them innovate. I want to share with you six concrete actions that internal communicators can propose to enhance innovation.
Internal Communication Actions to Strengthen Innovation
If an organization wants its employees to be innovative, it should begin by clearly defining what it means by “innovation.” It seems like a simple exercise, but it is not. “Innovation” is a nebulous, subjective concept and there are always as many definitions as people participating in the process.
Let me share some the questions we use as triggers to coordinate this dynamic:
Internal communicators should facilitate and coordinate communicative spaces where organizational members can clarify their understanding of innovation. If the definition lacks clarity, it will be very difficult to talk about innovation in a consistent and unified manner.
Internal communicators can also promote and develop open spaces of dialogue so that the organization can think about why it needs innovation. It is important to find a consistent answer to the “reason why.”
When my agency coordinates these spaces for organizations, we tend to find divergent ideas among organizational members. In these processes, there are no right or wrong answers. An organization should listen to itself, discover the views that exist within a team, and then build its own arguments.
After an organization defines the “what” and the “why,” it has to think about the “how.” Generating dynamics for leaders to think, propose and choose the way(s) in which they will make people “innovative.” Some ideas that have been used to help coordinate these spaces include:
Over the years, we have discovered that each of these proposals can be useful at some point in the process. Personally, I am convinced that innovation can only be enhanced if it forms part of an organization’s culture and DNA.
An internal communication plan needs to be developed to enhance innovation. It is not enough to simply launch a multimedia campaign, or to make a video with a person jumping behind a multicolored chalk explosion, or to fill the company with beautiful phrases such as “Encourage ways to think outside the Box!”
When we develop communication plans we focus on the following axes:
To enhance innovation, internal communicators should help banish ideas that prevent its development. Some of these ideas include:
To enhance innovation, we have to encourage positive communication between people. Some of the things we do to encourage innovation include providing communication tools, facilitating conversations about mistakes, opening training spaces on innovation, and generating communication with external stakeholders.
In general, internal communicators are not called upon to participate in innovation processes. When they are called, they are usually asked to fulfill dissemination tasks. Internal communicators have to demonstrate that we can partner in these projects and that we can collaborate in each phase of the process.
Alejandro Formanchuk is the Director of Formanchuk – Comunicación Interna Cocreada, an agency which has developed +1,000 projects for +250 organizations in 16 countries [www.formanchuk.com]. He is the President of the Argentinian Internal Communication Association and the Director of the Ibero-American Internal Communication Federation.