Chances are, at some stage in an interview, you may be asked to describe a time when you came up with something new. It might be a piece of technology, a process, some code, a document or a complete product. The line of interview questioning is not so much designed to establish how innovative you may be, rather to figure out how collaboratively you work with others. That’s because in most cases, innovation is a team thing.

So are you a donor or an owner? Are you willing to donate your knowledge to the group or do you tend to keep it to yourself?

“Successful companies are those that consistently create new knowledge, disseminate it widely throughout the organization, and quickly embody it in new technologies and products” (Nonaka). 

Innovation has been described as “a new idea applied to initiating or improving a product, process or service”. Updating and streamlining processes and procedures can save organisations time and material costs thereby creating a higher return on investment which in turn, increases long-term sustainability. Innovation has also been proposed as relating to an organisation thinking outside the norm “to find new markets and make better use of current resources”.

Successful innovation requires an organisation to be flexible, opportunistic and patient. An innovative organisation needs to be aware of what is happening around it. Adopting processes such as environmental scanning to check for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats will provide a good sense of the market and help the organisation to adapt as required. In addition, an innovative organisation ensures it has the right people and technology in place to be able to quickly embrace change and exploit market variations to its advantage.

Research has identified innovation as one of the key areas that can be used to predict the future success of a company. An organisation that fosters a culture of knowledge sharing amongst its entire workforce, rather than solely relying on the research and development department, usually tends to become more innovative in nature. Companies that continually innovate find it easier to create and maintain a competitive advantage.  Furthermore, organisations that are continually evolving and who foster a culture of change will ultimately become more sustainable than those who do not, again leading to competitive advantage.

Whether innovation leads to the development of new products or more streamlined processes, it will inevitably lead to continual staff development and a culture of learning within the business. People remain firmly at the heart of any organisation. The type of culture which fosters innovation is one in which staff are actively encouraged to openly share knowledge and express ideas – as discussed in our previous blog on Knowledge management.

When assessing the culture of a potential employing organisation, with a view to checking out whether it’s the right fit for you, it might pay to ask questions at interview that shed some light on the company’s thoughts and processes around knowledge sharing and innovation.