Building an Innovative Culture

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It’s pretty well understood and accepted that in a corporate environment innovation can’t be forced.  However, there are legitimate ways to encourage it.  Sure, there are plenty of tools technology has given us to be innovative, but ultimately creating the right environment in which it occurs is the more crucial ingredient. With that being said, there are five crucial factors to cultivating an avant-garde culture.

1) Have leaders influence to organizations attitudes toward innovation and allow them to equip their subordinates with the right tools to do it. Leaders need to be able to direct the group and encourage them to be ground-breaking.  Likewise, group members shouldn’t feel limited by their environment.  They need to be empowered.

2) Have a road map. Organizations need to have an idea of where they are going (i.e. what problem they are trying to solve) if innovation is to be worthwhile.  Furthermore, members need to be able to voice their concerns about where the organization is headed if need be.

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3) Eliminate bureaucratic behavior. In most cases, time is of the essence.  Sometimes organizations stiffle innovation because members cannot get the answers or the resources they need in the appropriate time frame.  Leaders need to be particularly sensitive to this fact.

4) Treat innovation as a day-to-day function and provide unstructured time in the day for it. Google does an excellent job of providing its employees with time in the day to tinker with side projects.  Many of the company’s best ideas have come from this model of innovation

5) Provide effective incentives.  Publicly recognize top innovators and explain to the entire organization why their contributions were valuable.  Incentives don’t have to be monetary, but they do need to demonstrate that innovation is important to leaders of the firm.

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