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The Cultural Design of Innovation

Innovation and culture goes hand-in-hand like PBJ.  If an organization’s culture is not open to curious thinking, celebrating successes and failures, and dealing with the unknown, innovation will forever exist in abrupt starts and spurts and end just as abruptly.


Fast Company came up with a handy list of six cultural ingredients each company should have to create a sustainable climate of innovation:


1. Be intentional with your innovation intent

Innovation should follow a clearly written organizational purpose (read more about the connection between purpose and innovation)

2. Create a structure for unstructured time

Whether its 10% of an employee’s time or dedicated “free days” for future forward thinking, encourage time to explore new opportunities without the constraints of short term goals and deliverables

3. Step in, then step back

This entails a general structure for innovation, some guideposts that employees can follow to foster creativity and innovation, without too many red tape processes for them to get tangled up in

4. Measure what’s meaningful

Identify indicators that will foster long lasting innovation such as the percentage of employees trained for innovation, or the ratio of innovations launched that are sustaining vs. transformational innovations

5. Give “worthless” rewards

To complement the more formal forms of rewards and recognitions, introduce opportunities for colleagues to informally “high five” one another for their innovation efforts

6. Get symbolic

Curate symbols such as specific words or phrases, physical artefacts, stories and folklore that have unique meaning for illustrating an organization’s innovation journey


So, how does your organization stack up?  Which of these traits does it embody well?  Which one(s) do you want to immediately introduce?


For more details on each of these innovation ingredients, read the Fast Company article in its entirety.


This creative commons image is courtesy of Betsy Weber

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