Communication is a key factor for the innovation capability of an organization, and a skillful leader knows how to make use of it for succeeding in innovation activity. Through communication one can achieve many kinds of objectives: communication can support collaboration and participation and it enables creating strategic direction and showing the way. Communication is needed to implement change, and through communicating about innovativeness, an organization can enhance its identity. In this article, I introduce these four cornerstones supporting innovation management and share tips on how to support innovation management by communication.

The four cornerstones

  1. Create opportunities for interaction and participation

Communication is of utmost importance in building networks and collaboration. To create relevant innovations a leader must know how to gather key actors and how to enable good interactions that make participants feel they have been listened to.

Build collaboration across sectoral and industrial boundaries. A prerequisite for solving complex problems is collaboration between all actors that are needed for solving the problem and implementing the solution. Invite various kinds of stakeholder groups, including groups from other sectors and industries, to join activities already in the beginning of the innovation process. This way you can gather diverse knowledge and ideas, build collaboration networks and take into account the consequences an innovation might have for the society.

Involve customers, employees and partners. The most valuable innovations take into account the interests of all stakeholder groups and create value not only for the customers but also for the providers of a product or a service. Even though customer needs are always the starting point for all innovations, consider the views of your employees and partners as well – it increases their motivation. When your team is motivated, you succeed to deliver the promised value to your customer in the best possible way.

  1. Build visionary leadership and communicate the results

Successful innovations necessitate choosing a strategic direction, which requires the use of diverse knowledge and dialogue about objectives. A skillful leader can lead stakeholder groups to build a shared understanding about desired solutions to the problem.

Create a shared understanding about the goals through dialogue. For the background, you need knowledge about future trends, about evaluations on your current solutions as well as about the needs and desires of stakeholder groups. Reflect these against the strategy of the organization or the network and choose what you would like to offer to the customers. This helps you in crystallizing the focus and objectives for innovation and create the prerequisites for success.

Communicate about the strategic nature of innovation to all stakeholder groups. During the innovation process, it is important to communicate the shared goals to all stakeholder groups. This directs activity towards creating innovations that support the strategic goals of the organization and a vision of a better world or the organization’s place in it.

It is also important to communicate about the role of innovation in an organization’s strategy to other stakeholder groups such as customers, investors and political decision-makers. Opening up the plan and the goals of the organization creates trust and credibility.

  1. Create a meaningful change journey

Taking innovations into use requires changing the ways and objects of working. It easily creates resistance because everyone is asked to learn new things. This is why change management and change communication are needed.

Help create common understanding about the required changes. In order to make change happen, everyone included needs to understand what has to be changed and by what means. It is important that a manager can lead the participants of the innovation process into a shared understanding about the change vision and how to realise it.

Inspire people to bring the vision to life. Communicate actively to all stakeholder groups about the added value an innovation creates and about the change the innovation requires. Involve in the planning all the people whom the change affects – it increases their motivation and commitment. Additionally, showcasing heroes and promoting milestones inspire people to continue and make the change appear as a story worth writing. When innovation and continuous change are promoted as values in organizational culture, you can create innovation capability in the long run.

  1. Enhance the image of the organization as an innovator

The image of the organization as an innovative actor can be reinforced among the stakeholder groups through communication. This helps strengthen the role of the organization in its network and reinforce a perception that its employees are capable of innovation.

Make innovativeness a component of the organization’s identity and communicate about it. When you build the identity of your organization as an innovative actor systematically, you can have an influence on what others think about your organization and its activities. Communicating about innovativeness increases attraction towards the organization among its customers, employees and partners. However, remember that the reputation of the organization is based on real experiences of collaboration with the organization. Thus, in addition to promises, proof is needed to change the organization’s reputation and to have a lasting effect on its image.


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