Building a Culture of Innovation

By: Karl R. LaPan, President and CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

Everyone benefits from building a culture of intrapreneurship at the workplace. It’s just that sometimes business owners don’t know where to begin when it comes to encouraging innovation on the job. Here are 4 tips for building a culture of innovation.

  1. Let go (Get the right people on the bus and in the right seats).
  2. Does your staff consult with you on every major decision? Do you have your hands in all the projects being completed at the moment? Are you the only one steering the ship? If any or all of these are true, you probably need to consider relinquishing some control for the sake of your employees’ development. Although it’s scary at first to step aside, eschewing micromanaging for a more hands-off approach can allow for some fresh air and new ideas that might help you lap the competition.

  3. Embrace an entrepreneurial mindset (Be change-ready and resilient).
  4. Clinging to old systems and methodologies just because that’s the way it has been done is a recipe for stagnancy. Always ask why you are doing something. How does it further an end goal? You should be wary of entrenched traditions or legacy beliefs. If McDonald’s is questioning whether it should serve hamburgers and french fries, what sacred cows should you be reassessing? Encourage the team to always question basic operating principles and to engage in creative destruction techniques. Adaptability is key.

  5. Make room for pivots (Embrace learning, mistakes, do-overs are badges of honor).
  6. If your employees equate making mistakes with a mark of shame and don’t have the confidence to fail forward, smarter, they will never take the risks necessary for personal and professional growth. Reward the process of experimentation (trial and error) even when the errors, at times, might outnumber successes. This is known as failing forward. Be candid about your own missteps so they see you’re being authentic and sincere.

  7. Inspire relevance (Be THE market leader).
  8. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery so always run faster than your competitors. Hold regular strategic and brainstorming sessions in which team members present their creative ideas for discussion and funding. Make investments in innovation a core component of your strategic plan.

As management guru, Peter Drucker said, “All organizations need one core competency: innovation.” Are you furthering a culture of innovation or stifling it? Remember, Drucker was right when he said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”


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