Create and Sustain a Culture of Innovation

May 16, 2024


Most companies focus on getting the job done on time and within budget. This industrial-age strategy can hold you back and prevent growth and success in today's volatile business environment. It can also hinder development.

A company with a culture of innovation encourages its people to use their imagination to combine and create new ideas. Innovation has become the lifeblood of a thriving organization as the business environment develops. Markets shift, consumer preferences change, and technologies advance. A company that doesn't move forward and ahead of the pack will soon fall behind.

Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) are not just talent managers. They play a pivotal role in shaping its culture, making them integral to its success. Nurturing a continuous culture of innovation amidst workplace complexities, such as balancing innovative yet risky ideas with stability and managing resistance to change, is a unique challenge that a CHRO can handle.

Why You Need a Culture of Innovation

In the relentless pace of change in the modern marketplace, a culture of innovation is not just a tool—it's a survival strategy. Making innovation a core value and weaving it into your organization's culture is essential to keeping up with technology changes and staying ahead of the competition. This is not just about survival, but thriving in a volatile environment.

Merely dabbling in innovation is insufficient for long-term success and competitiveness. Companies that rest on their laurels risk falling behind. A culture of innovation is about developing new products, exploring novel ideas, and finding improved ways to cater to your customers' needs. By maintaining this culture, you can expect changes and respond, ensuring your organization stays ahead of the curve.

Kodak, Nokia, and Blockbuster are just a few of the industry giants that were brought down because they couldn't adapt to the changing times. Meanwhile, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft thrived because they embraced innovation and stayed ahead of the pack.

You, too, can thrive in the ever-changing marketplace when you're willing to encourage creativity and take certain risks.

Leadership's Role in Cultivating Innovation

Leaders play a vital role in shaping an organization's culture, including fostering innovation. Influential leaders promote innovative thinking and act as role models by being creative in their decision-making processes and behavior.

By providing an environment that encourages experimentation, risk-taking, and creating thinking without fear or judgment, leaders create an environment where people aren't afraid of losing their jobs because they have different ideas.

Additional key characteristics of innovative organizations include:

  • encouraging open communication,
  • setting a clear vision that aligns with the organization's innovation goals,
  • communicating the value of innovation,
  • recognizing and rewarding innovative efforts,
  • embracing diverse perspectives, and
  • providing a roadmap for how innovation fits into the organization's business strategy.

Innovative organizations have a culture that encourages learning from failure and opportunities for growth rather than punishment. They also invest in development and continuous learning and provide employees with the resources, tools, and support required to be innovative and develop new ideas.

According to Fast Company, some of the top innovative companies include:

  • Nvidia: Brought graphics computing technology to AI, enabling companies to provide the computing power that enables GenAI.
  • Novo Nordisk: Unlocked the full potential of Ozempic for diabetes treatment.
  • Microsoft: Artificial intelligence in business, including manufacturing, government, energy, financial services, healthcare, and retail.
  • United Auto Workers: Electrified the labor movement, setting standards for millions of workers.
  • National Women's Soccer League: Reset the value of women's sports worldwide.
  • Gensler: Converted abandoned offices into homes, creating housing for a wider diversity of housing options for displaced residents with a significant impact on affordability.

Building a Foundation for an Innovative Culture

Creating and sustaining a culture of innovation requires an organization to build a solid foundation that encourages employees to contribute their best ideas–even risky ones. Essential practices for building a solid foundation for an innovative culture in an organization include:

  • Open Communication and Collaboration: Ensure all levels of your business are open to ideas. Promote cross-functional collaboration so you can leverage expertise and diverse perspectives. Employees should have forums or platforms to share ideas and provide feedback and a way to collaborate on ideas.
  • Set Clear Goals and Expectations: Ensure employees understand the organization's mission and strategic objectives. Set clear goals for innovation initiatives and emphasize creativity, experimentation, and improvement.
  • Invest in Training and Development: Offer workshops and seminars on creative thinking and problem-solving. Provide employees with everything they need, including resources, tools, and the training to become innovative. Be sure to support learning and development and notify employees of emerging technologies and trends.
  • Recruit Innovative Talent: Look beyond traditional qualifications for potential employees who are creative and have a track record for innovation. Assess a potential employee's ability to think by leveraging behavioral interview techniques. Check talent pools such as professional networks, universities, and industry events to find innovative talent.

Implementing these strategies and practices lays a solid foundation for creating and sustaining an innovative culture and ensuring long-term success.

Sustaining Innovation

While creating a culture of innovation is a considerable achievement, sustaining it over time means you must put ongoing effort into it. Adaptable leadership is essential. Some of the critical considerations for sustaining innovation over time include:

  • Keeping the Momentum Going. By ensuring continuity in leadership support and embedding innovation into your organization's long-term strategic priorities, you can maintain the momentum of sustaining a culture of innovation. Celebrating successes and providing continuous learning for all employees allows them to build skills and encourages them to continue being creative.

  • Overcoming Challenges to Sustaining a Culture of Innovation. Constantly challenge the status quo to guard against complacency. Encourage experimentation and curiosity to implement a culture that helps employees to adapt to challenges and opportunities. When you see resistance to change, address it immediately and involve those employees in the innovation process.

Ensure you're transparent about the reasons behind creating and sustaining a culture of innovation. Mitigate constraints by prioritizing innovation investments and maximizing resources. Create solutions to leveraging collaboration and external partnerships.

Into the Future

A robust culture of innovation is imperative for companies to survive and thrive in today's ever-changing marketplace. CHROs can create and sustain innovative practices by acting as role models and co-opting the other members of the executive team to do so.

Commit to making innovation a daily business priority.

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About Pixentia

Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.

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