In today’s hyper-competitive business landscape, businesses know that there is always room for improvement. The C-suite executives underpin innovation as one of the keys to growth.

Let’s get this straight! The long-used innovation models no longer keep up. So how can one get phenomenal results? The simple answer is—foster a culture of innovation.

The most thriving organizations value innovation culture, and you will see it reflected in their corporate cultures.

So, for companies who want to achieve breakthrough performance, it is significant to know how to build a culture of innovation. And it may not be a cakewalk! An efficient innovation culture takes time and experience to develop.

That is why—we’ve curated some exciting facets to provide you a starting point to build a cohesive culture of innovation. Let’s dig in!

Innovation is Key to Success

innovation is key to success

Remember the famous football adage, “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing!”

For businesses today, winning is critical as it spells survival. And what’s more important? One must keep innovating to achieve serial success.

It’s not easy to be a serial innovator. However, one can always learn from behemoths that have made it to the serial innovations list every year: Amazon, Alphabet, HP, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Toyota, and Samsung.

It is also good to learn from the hits and misses of some of the most innovative companies.

Table 1: The Most Innovative Companies

**2020 Rank****Company****Change (From Prior Year)**
1Apple+2
2Alphabet/Google-1
3Amazon-1
4Microsoft
5Samsung
6Huawei+42
7Alibaba+16
8IBM-1
9SonyReturnee
10Facebook-2

Source

The bottom line: serial innovation is imperative for success. And innovation leaders need to focus on adapting to rapidly shifting patterns of demand, supply, consumer behavior, and more. Why? Let’s find out.

Some Interesting Facts and Statistics

  • Breakthrough innovators lookout to move faster, and they are more ready to take risks. Plus, they embrace ideas more enthusiastically and elevate the prestige of innovation in their companies.

*Let’s take an *example.

Global consumer-products marketer Reckitt Benckiser actively seeks to create new categories with its product development efforts. With its hard work, it has generated a higher proportion of its annual sales.

Sales grew around an average of 9.3 percent, with the underlying earnings-before-interest-and-taxes margin increasing from 14 percent to 26 percent (from 2000 through 2013).

  • The world’s most innovative businesses have been getting more prominent. A typical small company’s revenue on the 2020 BCG list of the 50-most innovative companies is around $30 billion, up more than 170%.
  • Innovation is a top-three management priority for almost two-thirds of [surveyed] companies [as per a study].
  • For committed innovators, around 60% of the surveyed companies reported generating a rising proportion of sales from products and services launched in the past three years.
  • Yet another compelling insight is that almost 80% of strong innovators have properly digitized innovation processes.
  • In another research, the researcher team highlights that most innovative work cultures exhibit a high degree of human connection.

It is simple, while companies still struggle with innovation challenges, it still stays as a top priority. It’s hard not to see why. With myriad benefits, it is only pertinent that businesses build a culture that values innovation.

What’s more?

It’s not a one-time activity. Serial innovation can help enterprises to be more resilient and sustainable. Before we look at building an innovation culture, let’s look at what it is all about.

What is Innovation Culture?

what is innovation culture

The culture of innovation is centered around promoting the development of innovations within the company. Think about it!

Are innovation processes confined to a specific division? You’re right!

They are typically cross-divisional. So, the innovation culture functions company-wide, and the standards and values are molded and reinforced by all process participants.

A healthy innovation culture augments the innovative strength of the company. It’s all about how actively organizations engage employees and empower serial innovation.

It is necessary to have a framework to develop a culture that fosters innovation. You can sit down with your team and mull on the correct framework for your business.

However, here are some areas that can help to shape and sustain the right culture.

  • Leadership: The commitment to innovation always emanates from the top. So, leaders must model openness to new ideas and allow employees the freedom to explore novel ideas.
  • Communications: A healthy innovation culture takes collaborative efforts. A simple communication structure can help employees take the initiative and work through any co-dependencies.
  • Rewards & Recognition: Giving the right incentives to the innovators at the right time helps! It’s good to reward employees who contribute to new ideas.
  • Environment and Structure: Many companies design environments that can help employees reinforce their innovation goals. Plus, it is good to have well-established innovation processes and structures.

How Can C-Suite Leaders Build and Sustain Innovation Culture?

Any process of creation should be fun, meaningful, and bring value to the business. And curating the culture of innovation is no different!

Let’s look at some brilliant ways of how you can build and sustain an innovation culture.

how c-suite leaders build innovation culture

1. Setting the tone and laying the foundation

A lot of businesses struggle to put their foot right with innovation. Embedding innovation is an arduous process, and it is significant to get the elements, ideas, tools, and processes accurately.

As C-suite leaders, you may be passionate about innovation, but you need to support it with brainstorming, researching, and getting the foundation right.

What can you do?

  • Get together, ideate, and have a draft of the innovation roadmap.
  • Be a role model, and talk about how the seeds of innovation are taking root in the company.
  • Applaud innovators. It is equally significant to understand that it is probable to fail. And one must talk about it to draw patterns and learn from the ideas that didn’t work.

2. Spark Mosaic Thinking

When it comes to thinking, linearity is the default. However, there is an opportunity cost associated with linear thinking. It is a challenge for most C-suite leaders to avoid generating a tunnel vision. What is needed most is often a different way of thinking.

One may find non-linear thinking quite liberating. There is something remarkable about integrative thinking (aka mosaic thinking).

What is the nature of such thinking?

So, mosaic thinking entails blending a fragment of knowledge from a specific domain with another domain’s fragment.

Let’s take an example. Renowned Spanish artist Pablo Picasso combined the styles of Western art and African sculpture (masks and art) to create a new aesthetic art form. Innovators can try integrative thinking to generate inspirational ideas.

What can you do?

  • Foster divergent and convergent thinking.
  • Encourage innovators to gather disparate knowledge fragments from various domains. Next, vision it through the lens of different perspectives. It can help to bring out a whole new way of getting creative and innovative.

3. Tap Human Connection

We talked of human connection. That’s right! Any organization that optimizes human connection and places more emphasis on collaborative efforts has a higher probability of boosting innovation in the culture.

It is also observed that companies that have a corporate culture that’s low on connection and collaboration find employees dragging on innovation.

What can you do?

  • As C-suite leaders, you must have an inspiring vision and value people so that they can express ideas and opinions effortlessly.
  • Improve communication lines, fostering open communication, cooperation, and collaboration between supervisors, colleagues, senior leaders, and customers.

4. Set processes to gather ideas

Imagine your employees bustling with brilliant ideas! That’s what you envisioned, isn’t it?

So, what’s next? You need to create a relevant platform where they can share them.

What can you do?

  • Organize innovation campaigns according to your innovation agenda.
  • Have boot camps, training, workshops to walk employees through the processes and also become more innovative.
  • Leverage modern social intranet, where employees can share, like, comment on experiences and ideas. For example, Mesh 3.0, a window intranet platform, aids in capturing helpful ideas from employees.
  • Develop a digital hub where employees can communicate, collaborate, innovate, and access information.
  • Go digital and have a digitized employee suggestion box. Gather stories in a digitized way. For example, collect feedback through mobile surveys.
  • Take a modern approach and use analytical tools. Plus, use advanced knowledge mining capabilities like automated metadata generation, content tagging, classification, and taxonomy recommendations. The features allow you to unlock the value of unstructured data and make information easily searchable and accessible.

5. Identify your creative geniuses and support them

Often, we tend to place people into two buckets—the creatives and the non-creatives. While we tend to focus on the “creative” bucket, it is pertinent to acknowledge ideas without bias seeping.

Let’s understand this—acknowledging and respecting creative individuals and teams can have a tremendous impact on success.

Some of the most recognized companies, such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Procter & Gamble, among others, are the most diverse and inclusive companies in America.

How diversity and inclusion (D&I) help?

When you create a diverse and inclusive workforce, unarguably, it enhances creativity.

What can you do?

  • According to a study, the best leaders are humble leaders. When you are open to ideas and thinking and recognize creative genius in others, you can drive your company to success.
  • Challenge employees to think deeper and speak up.
  • Foster platforms where employees can easily contribute to ideas.
  • Instill a positive attitude and healthy culture of applauding the creative genius of others.

6. Bust the culture of silence—learn from mistakes

Take a moment to reflect. Businesses could suffer when employees know that something is going wrong—but say nothing.

Let’s take an example—Samsung Electronics’ worst-ever recall. The flagship Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was rushed to the market.

However, the phone had apparent flaws in design and manufacturing that should have halted production. Later, the company had to issue a recall, eventually burning around a $17 billion hole in their accounts. Industry experts pinned the issue down to Samsung’s culture.

They highlighted that the makers could have avoided mistakes if employees had called attention to the design problems, and managers had listened to them.

The bottom line: the leadership approach that fosters a culture of silence practically invites disaster.

What can you do?

  • Develop an agile workplace culture where the exposure to risk gets limited.
  • Stop incentivizing silence, and inspire constructive criticism.
  • Foster a workplace where it is easy to share mistakes and failures and learn from them.
  • Create a mindset where there is zero tolerance for punishing any shout-outs to mistakes. Employees are expected to come up with new ideas, and some fail. In such cases, constructive and non-punitive methods can endorse innovation.

7. Embed useful metrics for better idea generation

It is vital to choose helpful metrics and embed them in the culture of your organization. The metrics can also include benchmarking tools that offer insights on whether you are the best-in-class.

What can you do?

  • Assess innovation. You can evaluate and hire innovative talent. Identify talent who can play a critical role in the innovation process.
  • Check the Innovation Index. The index can help you compare your organization to others—on performing relative to innovation.
  • Set metrics for constructive use. Have customer metrics and employee metrics in place to get feedback on respective entities.
  • Build an Innovation scorecard. Curating the scorecard can help you track and measure progress.

8. Review and Adapt

It is good to reset to your innovation draft in an ever-changing business landscape if needed. It will help to review and adapt—you can tweak and adjust your innovation journey.

For example, Procter and Gamble did a reset around 1999 that was critical. The company embarked on an ambitious transition to connect and develop. The change helped to open itself to extensive collaboration with outside players. The move also helped prune obsolete patterns and learn and embed significant new behaviors.

What can you do?

  • Review regularly and check the cultural routines you need to keep and the ones you need to stop.

Wrapping Up

The culture of innovation does not happen by accident; it’s not magical (or Harry Potter-ish). Building a sustainable innovation culture takes commitment, time, experience, systematic assessment, and validation. However, it is a process worth the effort.

As Craig Wynett, the Chief Innovation Officer, at P&G states: For innovation to be reliable, it needs to be addressed systematically, like any business issue in which you define the problem and then solve it.

It’s time to get started. You can set targets that energize you and others in your organization. And reach and achieve what almost seems impossible!

Harness the Power of Innovation Culture with Imaginovation

The new normal is starting to shape. After facing epic challenges, it’s time to play a pivotal role in building a sustainable innovation culture and digitally empower your business. If you want to curate a sustainable innovation culture, talk to us.

We are an award-winning web and mobile app development company in Raleigh with incredible experience helping businesses with breakthrough digital innovations.

Author

Michael Georgiou
Michael Georgiou
Co-Founder

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Can C-Suite Leaders Build and Sustain Innovation Culture?
  1. Setting the tone and laying the foundation
  2. Spark Mosaic Thinking
  3. Tap Human Connection
  4. Set processes to gather ideas
  5. Identify your creative geniuses and support them
  6. Bust the culture of silence—learn from mistakes
  7. Embed useful metrics for better idea generation
  8. Review and Adapt

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