Innovation: Laying the Right Foundation

Innovation: Laying the Right Foundation

I don’t know of a single company that will admit innovation isn’t one of their strategic goals. 

CEO surveys like KPMG’s show that 85% put innovation at the top of the list. Millions of dollars are spent on innovation tools, programs, consultants, and acceleration programs. Desired results are rarely achieved. I know personally of four global companies who, after innovation programs failed, shifted gears to “business transformation,” a dog whistle to top employees to dust off their resumes and start networking.

There are two types of leadership cultures that promote innovation: the “star” leader culture and the integrated innovative culture. Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are iconic “star” leader examples. Uber founder, Travis Kalanick, is another. The main challenge with “star” leader cultures is that after the leader is gone, innovation often falters. Another challenge is that while the culture may be exciting, it’s not always fun and can be brutal on the emotions.

Another type of innovation culture is that which has baked innovation into all levels of the company. These cultures are highly sustainable. The trick is in making magic happen. Examples are: ToyotaNetflixIntuitSemco3M and Google. If you are familiar with these companies, you know that they each do things a little differently, but there are three common elements that formulate the magic:

  1. Ideas and input are welcome from anyone in the organization.
  2. The culture is safe for people to collaborate and make mistakes.
  3. Beginning with the leaders, customer empathy reigns supreme.

HR is uniquely positioned to promote and integrate these elements into the culture. Beginning with recruitment through employee development, talent leaders can align the C-Suite’s strategic goals with talent management programs, particularly management and leadership development. 

It is not easy, but it is achievable. And once the investment is made, it’s sustainable. It’s also a lot more fun than “business transformation.”

Companies with innovative cultures don’t usually have worry too much about employee engagement, either.

Pat Sharp (Bio)

Pat is currently launching Tournovate BIG, a gamified approach to infuse companies with innovative thinking and create a sustainable culture of innovation. Pat has worked across a spectrum of industries: financial and professional services, entertainment, manufacturing, and media, including: ENA, Willis Towers Watson, Deloitte, Motorola, and several growth stage companies.

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