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Culture, Communication and Collaboration are the 3 C’s that form the “soft-side” foundation of successful innovation. Without understanding your personnel “raw material” for innovation, the process may be difficult if not impossible to execute successfully.

Culture, communication and collaboration are the 3 C’s that form the foundation of successful innovation. Without an adequate understanding of your personnel “raw material” for innovation, the process may be difficult if not impossible to execute successfully. So let’s take a closer look at these three issues, and how they can help us to improve the success of our tactical innovation efforts:

Culture is the worst innovation killer this side of the moon. If your company’s managers and culture favor criticizing new thinking methods, then the experimental “fail fast-fail cheap without judgement” approach required for innovation is doomed from the start. In these innovation-averse cultures, good behavior is caught rather than taught.

Communication: Are your departments like two samari warriors with drawn swords facing back to back with competing goals, visions, leadership? Or are they more like runners in a relay race, where the baton gets passed or worse (dropped) in transition? This latter metaphor refers to the traditional “throw the design over the wall and see if manufacturing can make it” process that is still employed by many firms today. If your communication efforts don’t resemble either of these two examples, then your team probably has a fair shot at being successful in its innovation initiatives.

Collaboration: Who works well together? Who doesn’t? Joint effort between groups and departments can be easily derailed by corporate politics, cultural issues and even the personalities of individual managers. Innovation processes, software tools, training programs and more are meaningless without attacking the underlying collaboration challenges.

I recommend that you analyze where failures and breakdowns have occurred in these three areas before you try to implement an innovation initiative. Otherwise, it’s likely like innovation will become just another management “flavor of the month” solution that gets some superficial attention, but then gets discarded.

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