Creating a Culture of Innovation

Aug 22, 2016

Innovation is having a moment. Brands, products and individuals are all striving to be and say that they are innovative. But unpacking this word has lead me to some bigger questions… what does it really mean to be truly innovative? How can you foster a culture of innovation within a company? How do you find and attract innovative people?  I had the opportunity to get more insight into my questions when attending a panel hosted by MITX called “Disruptive Innovators Series: The Anatomy of an Innovator.”

The panel featured three speakers including Anne Marie Dumais, Open Innovation Program Impact Leader at GE, Ace Moghimi, AVP & Head of Innovation at Lab Of Forward Thinking and Dan O’Malley, Chief Digital Officer at Eastern Bank.  All of these individuals have helped to create a seat at the table for innovation within large companies in order to make disruptive change.

Over the next 90 minutes the panelists spoke about their personal journeys, successes, and challenges that they’ve faced while helping more traditional companies become agile, think differently, and start to transform. So what was my biggest takeaway? Unanimously, the panel spoke about the importance of building and fostering a culture of innovation in order to be successful. Here are some key insights:

Creating an Innovative Environment

Give people permission to be innovative

Create and environment that gives people permission and a space to try, to fail and to keep iterating. Dan O’Malley says “Create the right environment, you have to give people permission to try things and feel comfortable, to want to be involved. If they feel that, they will go above and beyond for you.”

Create a destination for creative ideas

Create a “destination” for individuals around the company to submit their ideas.  No matter what your role, employees need a place where they can feel heard and acknowledged for their efforts.  The panelists suggested tactics like establishing an internal company portal for idea submissions, hosting hackathons and setting up cross-company challenges for new projects as way to constantly inspire and foster the innovative spirit.

Make change a part of the culture

Innovation is all about change. Creating a culture that is not only not afraid of change, but thrives on it is critical. “Hire people who are willing to change, willing to go through pain to achieve change and have a bias toward action.” Dan O’Malley

Attracting Innovative People

Identify individual impact

Innovative people want to see the impact they have within the company. They want to know that they are making a difference. It is important to be able to communicate and identify the impact that an individual or team is making on the bottom line. “Think about startup culture. People who want to work at a startup want to have a major impact and they are will to do whatever to make that happen.” Ace Moghimi

Challenge your talent

Innovative people need to be challenged, inspired and motivated. If their current position doesn’t offer that, they will move along to another company. Innovative companies understand this behavior and create opportunities for people to evolve their skills, challenge company-wide thinking and establish their own projects.

Acknowledge the many forms of creativity

“There is more than one creative archetype. People tend to focus on classically creative types. We try to identify how each team is uniquely creative and allow them to feel encouraged to express ideas. ” Ann Marie Dumais. Think differently about what is considered “creative” and open to the door to different types of thinking. Pair disparate groups together to collaborate together for a greater purpose. Invent together.

At the end of the day, innovation is all about communication, acknowledgement and opportunity. Companies don’t have to necessarily go through a massive overhaul in order to be innovative.  Start making small changes in your company culture right away by thinking through the needs of your talent and assessing space you create for them to thrive.

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