What an Innovative Culture Looks Like

What a innovation culture looks likeAn innovative corporate culture is one that supports the creation of new ideas and the implementation of those ideas. Leaders need to help employees see innovation in the right light. The most innovative companies do the following:

1.  See innovation as a competency:  Innovation is a skill, not a gift.  It can be learned by anyone and applied systematic.  Innovative companies treat it as just another core skill by:

  • Creating a well-defined set of innovation competencies and embedding them into every employee’s competency model along with other required behaviors such as ethics and leadership.
  • Conducting regular training courses in creativity methods and innovation management.
  • Staffing internal innovation experts and coaches who work with teams to help guide their innovation efforts and facilitate their success.
  • Not rewarding employees for innovation, but rather expecting it as part of the value system

2.  See innovation as a competitive weapon: Innovative companies use innovation to differentiate themselves by:

  • Conducting regular idea generation workshops within business units
  • Deploying innovation methods within planning and strategy initiatives
  • Innovating from the core competencies of the firm as the starting point
  • Using innovation methods as part of mergers and acquisitions to explore and analyze growth potential of the target

What an innovative culture looks like

3.  See innovation as a process:  Innovative companies don’t treat innovation as special, unique activity. They see it instead as an ongoing “stream of effort” along with quality, leadership, productivity, and other imperatives.  They do this by:

  • Developing an idea management and tracking capability
  • Conducting “clearinghouse” workshops to leverage innovation across business units
  • Sourcing innovation consultants that are well matched to the specific task (eg: ideation).
  • Linking innovation to other key processes including financial, commercial, and technical.

4.  See innovation as both systematic and opportunistic:  The most innovative companies flex between different styles of creating opportunity by:

  • Sponsoring internal innovation “subversives” who work around the system to champion new ideas and drive them through execution
  • Being “open” to ideas from outside sources to make non-obvious connections to internal projects.
  • Experimenting with new concepts – “making a little, selling a little, and learning a lot” – like P&G.
  • Collaborating with like-minded companies in non-competing industries to source new ideas and trends.

To read more about both sides of this issue, I recommend two articles just released. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer write about “How leaders kill meaning at work.”  You can find this in McKinsey Quarterly, January 2012.  Ken Kahn and his colleagues write about “An Examination of New Product Development Best Practices,” in the March 2012 edition of Journal of Product Innovation Management.

imagecredit:psychface & papermaster

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Drew BoydDrew Boyd is Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MS-Marketing program. Follow him at www.innovationinpractice.com and at https://twitter.com/drewboyd

Drew Boyd




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No Comments

  1. Rajendra raja on March 5, 2012 at 2:58 am

    Great ways to demystify innovation as an essentail daily need, like breakfast and washrooms rituals

  2. Paul on March 9, 2012 at 9:04 am

    I think that innovation goes hand in hand with motivation because one of the key motivators for me personally is to know that my innovative ideas are appreciated by my employer. Nowadays this is the main reason why more and more employees don’t feel satisfied with their jobs and I am not surprised when I read that new methods are used nowadays to enhance one’s happiness in the workplace and to develop a more positive attitude among employees.

  3. Lisa on March 11, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    I agree with Paul. A culture that supports innovation is collaborative & cultivates their people. It is not a command & control model. A good test of which culture a company is –if they use the term “resources” for people, they are most likely command and control. Resources are pens, paper, etc. People are the innovators. Leaders need to engage their people not shut them down with command and control. A good read on this subject is Dan Pink’s “Drive”

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