Starting an Innovation Culture? 3M, Google, Intuit, Netflix did it and so can you…

Creating a culture of innovation is important for any organization that wishes to grow.

Like others before you, you can learn from these early examples of how to create a culture of innovation in your organization so that it can thrive.

Help bring new ideas to the table and encourage innovative thinking in the following ways:

1. Assess Your Organization’s Current Culture

Before you begin implementing steps to create a culture of innovation, you should understand your organization’s current culture. Knowing how ready your organization is will help you understand how easy (or difficult) it will be to begin to create a culture of innovation.

Michael Maddock, founder of innovation agency Maddock Douglas, suggests that you ask yourself: “What are the current levels of the following: desire to be innovative, know-how to be innovative, empowerment/support to be innovative?”

Begin by asking yourself these questions to help you understand how prepared your organization is for a culture of innovation.

2. Give Your Employees Time to Innovate

Innovation needs time to develop, but your employees probably feel like they don’t have much time to spare.

That’s why innovative companies like 3M and Google give their employees 15 – 20% “free time” to pursue their own ideas.

“One of the tenets we strongly believe in is if you give people freedom, they will amaze you.” – Prasad Setty, VP of People Analytics and Compensation at Google.

Consider offering your employees time to innovate, so they can hatch ideas and further your organization.

3. Guide Innovation Through Your Mission Statement

Create a mission statement that is focused toward a particular goal. Communicate the goal to your employees so they can understand it and innovate toward a particular purpose.

Take software company Intuit, for example. Their mission is clear t0 their employees and motivates them to be innovative: “To improve our customers’ financial lives so profoundly they can’t imagine going back to the old way.”

4. Informally Recognize Your Employees

How do you recognize your employees?

Waiting for a formal meeting to recognize your employees is good, but it won’t keep your employees engaged or contribute to your organization’s culture of innovation. The most powerful and robust type of recognition often happens informally.

Take the time to informally acknowledge employees for good work ethic, taking smart risks, and more. Try dropping by an employee’s desk and saying a sincere thank you. High-five employees for good work. Publicly recognize an employee on the company bulletin board.

Colgate-Palmolive’s Global R&D group created a “recognition economy” by giving wooden nickels to employees who had made noteworthy contributions to their projects. Nickels are now distributed in meetings and the winners of the nickels often pass them on to others who had chipped in on projects that they themselves led. It’s a fun idea and helps promote engagement and the flow of ideas within the company.

Netflix Created a Culture of Innovation

Netflix is known for their popular online streaming video service, but did you know that Netflix created, and successfully maintains, a culture of innovation?

Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, refers to his company’s culture as their “Freedom and Responsibility” culture. Hastings gives their employees the freedom to expand on ideas and take risks, but also expects responsibility from his employees.

Hastings tell his employees to: “Say what you think, even if it is controversial. Make tough decisions without agonizing excessively. Take smart risks. Question actions inconsistent with our values.”

“The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people.” — Reed Hastings

For Netflix, a thriving culture of innovation begins with their employees. Netflix looks for 9 specific values in each and every employee: Judgment, Communication, Impact, Curiosity, Innovation, Courage, Passion, Honesty, and Selflessness.

In addition, the company adds some fun to their conference rooms. They have named their corporate conference rooms after blockbuster movies (King Kong and Dark Passageare just two examples) as a reminder of the continuous breakthroughs its employees are creating and promoting. This constantly encourages employees of what they are capable of accomplishing.

Hastings also helps in creating a culture of innovation by being readily available. He doesn’t have an office. Instead, Hastings moves around headquarters meeting with people and sits at spare tables to deal with email.

CEO Reed Hastings put together a public presentation detailing Netflix’s culture. If you’re interested in learning more about it, take a look at his presentation.

Get Started with Your Organization’s Culture of Innovation

Create a culture of innovation that is unique to your organization. Take notes from Netflix’s innovation culture and adapt them for your organization. Follow the tips above to get started on creating a culture of innovation. Learn how an innovation culture can benefit your organization and find out how you can continually maintain a culture of innovation with an idea management system.

Leila Durmaz blogs at Practical Innovation Management likes researching the best practices for innovation management. Follow Leila at @ideaglow

Leila Durmaz




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  1. Francisco de Rhodes Sérgio on December 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Great post Leila.

    I would add one more thing (or three if you want): communicate, communicate, communicate…

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