What to Do (and Not to Do) in Creating a Culture For Innovation

Earlier this week I wrote about creating a culture of creativity, as Danny Boyle did to create and direct the Olympic opening ceremonies. How does that translate to the workplace or the more common phrase we often hear of creating a culture of innovation?

What to do

In CIO, Frank Wander, founder of the IT Excellence Institute and a former Fortune 250 CIO, recently shared three best practices for doing just that in terms of what you should always, sometimes and never do:

Always recognize that IT’s culture is your responsibility, and innovation is an outcome of the culture…

Sometimes work outside the office to find a quiet setting in which to think…

Never build a culture of blame. Innovation is often about trying and failing. If failure leads to blame, you’ll create an innovation short-circuit.”

This is at the heart of creating a culture that is open to innovative ideas (even if they may sound silly at first), sharing, helping, contributing together in an environment that’s supportive and where failure is not only tolerated but encouraged as a path to success. (Check out this great post from Dan McCarthy on famous failures.)

What not to do

Sometimes, avoiding the pitfalls is as difficult as following the path to success. Indeed, this is no less true when creating a culture of innovation.

Today in his Workplace Mojo blog, Matt Monge wrote about “culture killers,” namely:

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  • Saying your people are your priority when they’re really not;
  • Saying you want feedback when you really don’t; and,
  • Empowering “leaders” who don’t really lead.

Doesn’t this all really circle back to transparency? You say what you mean and do what you say. Easily said, but not always as easily done, especially when you’re trying to instill these beliefs and approaches in your own team of leaders to filter down.

The best approach is for the senior leader to model the desired behaviors, then consistently, frequently and in a timely way recognize and reward those who do so as well. Equally important, leaders must be willing to coach and, if necessary, remove leaders who demonstrate the “culture killers.”

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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