By: Maitreayee Bora
July 2 2021

Building a culture of innovation at the workplace: The actual reality and the sure-shot ways to do it

Do you think creativity happens only in wide-open spaces, cool studios, or colorful rooms? It isn’t so. Surprisingly, it can also happen in a cubicle or a conference room at a workplace. So, creativity and innovation can happen anywhere if it gets the right culture. Without a positive innovation culture, a business can become stagnant and will have to struggle hard to achieve its optimum business outcomes in this highly competitive world. Therefore, one should proactively contribute in building a culture of innovation that would encourage the employees to innovate naturally and find opportunities in new products and services. This article is the right choice if you want to know more about the importance of building a culture of innovation at your workplace that enhances creativity and innovation. 

Leaders role in building a culture of innovation at workplace

With the innovation culture, an employee regardless of his work experience can express his ideas and perspectives towards trying something new with any product building or services. But mostly, it is observed that companies do not show interest and efforts in establishing an innovation culture as it requires updating processes, reallocating resources within the company, and many other changes that don't provide instant results. Well, it is an obvious thing to step back from experimenting with new ideas as they might not succeed and rather feel safe by not taking such risks. But by doing so, a company only holds back its employees from taking a step closer to success. As life is full of uncertainty and you never know what can click right for you unless you experiment. 

A leader should be responsible enough to know what is the culture of innovation and provide the freedom to its employees to open their hearts up when it comes to creativity and innovation. They should be encouraged to think differently and give a fresh look to any of the problems they face during their creative thinking. Therefore, a leader should be well versed in the right ways of creating a workplace culture that encourages innovation. It is observed that 70% of the culture impact comes from the leadership decisions and guidance, on the other hand, the remaining 30% is based on the various training and engagement programs. So, a major responsibility is upon the leaders to take their companies to the next level in terms of the innovative culture at the workplace. There is a need to strategize the suitable steps to creating a culture of innovation by the leaders to enhance new ideas and innovation.  

Pillars of innovation

Illustration with a diagram describing the pillars of innovation at the workplace


Innovation cannot happen within a blink of an eye. It needs constant efforts which are based upon some major factors that can be termed as pillars of innovation. These pillars provide immense support to the organization in building a culture that drives innovation and creativity.

Processes 

It’s difficult to start innovating without earlier experience. Since innovation refers to change, and the employees might not be confident to come out of their comfort zone. This is the reason why building the right process is necessary. Such processes include designing, executing, innovative technology, governance, team structure, performance measurement and adjusting innovative strategy. See how right processes can eventually promote good team health and enhance productivity required for embracing digital innovation

People

Your team can be your greatest strength. But it's not about numbers rather it’s about dedication and inspiration. To successfully innovate, you need to connect to the external experts who are well experienced and can guide your internal talents to find new ideas and give it a try. You should find the right talent both inside and outside the team to take innovation to the next level.  

Projects

To get better work results you need to essentially start reforming the project management approach that includes forming lean teams, following short sprints, and also experimenting with new working methods that will be suitable for your organization. To know more, read about human psychology in project management, feature prioritisation approachesproject ownership transfer and starting a development projects like that of Drupal the right way.

Problems

Solving real life problems is what true innovation does. So, as an entrepreneur, you need to make sure that you receive the maximum revenue with a huge cost-efficiency. Therefore, business innovation must be considered as one of the most important parts of your business and not something that isn’t prioritized. 

Priorities

In a company, there will be multiple areas where you will have to put your time and effort to enhance progress. So, the best way to handle this is to form an innovative thesis and make it available to the managerial body of the company to ensure that the innovative initiatives goes well with the long-term company strategy. 

Progress

You need to look for a convenient way to bring progress to your organization. This can be done by setting measurable KPIs and tracking the employee performance in reaching the company’s set business outcomes. 

How do you promote culture of innovation

Illustration showing multiple squares describing the ways of creating a culture of innovation at the workplace


One of the most important questions that arises in an entrepreneur’s mind is, “How to create a culture of innovation in the workplace? So, here are some of the measures to create a culture of innovation at the workplace.

Setting clear goals and values

The very first thing needed to encourage innovation at a workplace is clear goal-setting. There must be a specific direction where the company would like to dive in to bring creativity and innovation, and this can be made possible with the transparency of the company's major goal and objectives. Since the employees are aware of their goals, it will be easier for them to find ways to meet their work targets and responsibilities. The company should clarify their values to the employees which provide proper guidance in terms of their work and responsibilities. Such clarity helps in bringing up different ideas and concepts leading to a great culture of innovation at the workplace. 

Making employees learn specific skills and techniques

The companies can invest their time and efforts in making the employees learn specific skills like design thinking or problem finding and solving. This will increase the confidence of employees helping them to face various challenges that might come during the innovation process at the workplace.  

10 X Thinking

Google believes in 10 X Thinking which supports the idea of true innovation taking place when you try improving something by 10 times instead of 10 %. For the engineers at Google, it is the guiding motivation that helps them create unique innovative ideas and products. A 10 X goal helps you to rethink an idea and go beyond the existing models, also giving an idea to approach it in a completely different way. 

Using the 70/20/10 model

Google strongly believes in the concept of the 70/20/10 model which was introduced in the 1980s. This concept means:

70% of projects are dedicated to core business
20% of projects are related to core business
10% of projects are unrelated to core business
This model helps in focusing on core business and at the same time supports new ideas that can bring success to the company.

Find ideas everywhere

Ideas cannot be restricted into one place. You can find it everywhere. All you need to do is look around. Google shares its own experience on it. To improve the quality of Google Maps, it crowdsourced innovation. The idea came up when one of the engineering teams of India felt that the lack of online map data could possibly restrict the utility of Google Maps in India. As a result, they created a platform where the users could provide the missing data. This is how Google Map Maker came into existence which is a tool helping users make changes in the Google Map according to their preferences.    

Focusing on user satisfaction

If users are satisfied with your work then that’s all you need. Google believes that building a trustworthy base of people who appreciates and love your work can add a lot of value to your company’s reputation. The user satisfaction shall be the top most priority which will help you embrace innovative culture at the workplace.   

Assigning work to employees as per their interests 

Innovation cannot be forced, it just happens. So, you can never force any of your employees to do something completely, out of their interest. You need to smartly assign work to your staff looking at their skills and interests. If people are encouraged to do better in their field of work, it brings a sense of satisfaction to them which further helps in bringing up excellent performance and results. So, talking about innovation, it is very essential to find the right fit for such roles and motivate them to enhance innovation at the workplace.

Facilitating proper communication networks 

Communication is one of the most important keys to success in the path of building a culture of innovation at the workplace. Without the proper exchange, coordination, and collaboration of different ideas and perspectives, innovation cannot happen. There can be progress in innovation only if the employees feel free to express their unique ideas through effective communication within the organization along with making them feel valued and heard. 

A connection shall be made with the outside world as well like start-ups, large companies, national labs, venture capitalists and universities. This helps in exchange of knowledge and ideas resulting in opening new doors to creativity and innovation. 

Utilization of modern innovative tools and procedures can be helpful

To practice a successful innovation culture, the companies need to focus upon using modern innovative tools and processes among their various cross-functional teams. Organizing extensive ideation processes like Hackathons which motivates teams and encourages collaboration and creative thinking proves to be very beneficial. 

Building diverse and inclusive teams at the workplace

For innovation to happen, proper collaboration and teamwork among various departments are required. So, in such an instance, diversity and inclusion can play an important role in bringing a wide range of ideas, skills, and perspectives among the employees that can act as an added advantage to contribute to the process of innovation development. To know more, check out how diverse design teams can encourage innovation.

Need of constructive feedback

How can you understand the real value of your innovation? It is possible by connecting to your audiences and taking genuine feedback from them regarding your innovative products and services’ real performance. In doing so, you will get a clear picture of what exact changes are required to improve your product. This indeed can be taken as motivation to do better in the field of innovation and creativity.

Encouraging employees by providing awards and recognition

Every innovation comes with a certain amount of risks which are handled by the company employees to move ahead of the tough challenges and competition prevailing around the global market. Such contributions from the employee’s end shouldn’t go unnoticed and rather be recognized by presenting awards and promotions that value their time and effort towards building a culture of innovation at the workplace. The employees can be further given a facility to go for their choice of work for a stipulated period that in a way enhances their creativity and help them come with exceptional innovation outcomes.

Emphasizing innovation at the time of recruitment

It is important to have the right people around to take a step closer to innovation. So, it can be done at the early stage of recruitment where you can coordinate with the HR department and specify your requirements that can help hire the potential candidates to join the organization. For example, creative thinking can be included as a vital part of the candidate assessment process. The company’s goal, the value of innovation within the organization, and the employee’s role in the innovation process should be revealed at the time of the onboarding process.

Creating an interesting innovative space

The physical ambience matters as there is a strong connection between the culture of innovation and the physical workplace. This brings a positive impact in the employee’s mindset, helping them to think differently, driving creativity. Therefore, an innovative workspace that gives access to the right technologies and separate innovation labs can encourage innovation.

Building trust within the organization

Change cannot happen instantly. It needs time and patience to experience the desired change. So, talking about innovation culture, a trust needs to be built up by the company leaders within the organization so that the employees can be patient enough to wait for the expected culture change with ease and comfort. 

Supporting the unreasonable ideas 

Companies usually don’t prefer taking risks for ideas that seem impractical or unreasonable. But at times that can surprisingly, be a huge success if given a chance. As life is full of uncertainties, success can knock your door in the most unexpected way. Therefore, the companies should give a fair chance to the employees if ever they come with such impractical yet unique ideas. 

Removing the fear of failure and giving them a feeling of ownership

One of the biggest challenges the employees face in the path of innovation is the fear of failure or being rejected. This can lead to mental block disabling the employees to think creatively and perform according to the desired expectations. Therefore, the employees should be given the assurance of considering failure as part of the growing process and help them work patiently, towards meeting their work targets. One more way to encourage the employees is to give them a sense of ownership of whatever work they are involved in as it can increase their confidence level giving rise to exceptional work performance. 

Time to look into a video that gives an overview of the significance of innovation culture in the workplace. In this video, Matt Roddan, Head of Employee Research at ORC International talks about the unique approach of ORC International towards measuring companies' internal culture of innovation and its relationship with employee engagement.

 

Three companies who were successful in carrying out the right innovation process

Here are some of the innovation culture best practices from the world’s most successful companies. These practices can help your company employees to take the right steps towards innovation.

An arrow in black

Nike shares its secret behind 50 years of success in the innovation world. They majorly focus on process change rather than going for product change. They believe in the fact that if the process can be improved, then automatically it will produce better satisfying products. The concept of a prototype is patiently handled by this company as they know the fact that even after giving several attempts of making prototypes, it might take time to get the right one. They never step back from partnering with the right organizations and collaborating with the potential innovators to bring up the ideal innovation results. Most importantly, they respect their company culture and treat every project with much importance that in a way motivates the employees to be more dedicated and committed to their work endeavor.

Alphabet 'G' composed of various colours

Google firmly believes in the fact that to succeed, you need to improve constantly. They have unique strategies that constantly strive for better outcomes. Their innovation process starts with encouraging their employees to work on side projects along with performing their major work responsibilities. Next, they prioritize the ideas that make an excellent product or service and reduce such ideas which do not align with their business goals and vision. Getting involved with the global innovation community is a smart move that Google takes to drive innovation to its best. Believing that perfection doesn’t exist helps them to launch their product unapologetically and wait for their customer’s feedback to either improve their product or maintain the satisfactory product standard.  

'Amazon'  written in black and an orange arrow sign below it


Amazon follows a more traditional process of innovation. They prefer setting innovation objectives rather than allowing full creative freedom to employees which is the first step of the innovation process. Their executives look for the direction where consumer and technology needs are heading so that they can strategically plan the necessary steps and initiatives. Sourcing ideas with the greatest potential is the second most important step. Next, the top innovative ideas are further reduced and the best ones are then finally launched expecting them to provide excellent service to their customers.  

With the above examples, you get a clarity on why innovation culture is important and what exact strategies can be followed in creating a culture of innovation. 

Endnote

Innovation creates a smart future. Transforming to the innovation culture is difficult and time-consuming. But by sharing ideas, expertise, collaboration, and experimentation, innovation culture can be well practiced within the organization and help in turning an idea into reality. So, by adopting such a convenient approach, companies can dream of becoming the innovation leaders of the future and bring value to the company, users, and society at large.