Can an innovation culture be "created"?

Navigating company culture can be tricky. It influences employee satisfaction, business success, and innovation. Dive into our article to understand organizational culture, its impact on growth, and steps to foster a vibrant culture of innovation.

Innovation Culture
Carlos Mendes
Carlos Mendes
Co-Founder @ InnovationCast
August 12, 2023

Can an Innovation Culture Be Created?

Your company culture can work either for you or against innovation success. This is why countless organizations are attempting to get a grip on their culture and build something that resonates with both employees and customers.

But the term “culture” is so complex that it can sometimes be difficult to unravel. Ultimately, we're left with all kinds of questions like:

  • What is organizational culture?

  • What are the benefits of good culture?

  • How can I build a better company culture?

  • Which type of culture would I create?

In this article, you'll learn what organizational culture is, why it's important and how you can achieve long-term viability with a strong culture of innovation.

What is organizational culture?

Organizational culture otherwise referred to as company culture is a collection of values, expectations and practices that guide and inform the actions of all team members and influence behaviors—this is more concisely defined by Gallup as “how we do things around here.”

These traits permeate every aspect of your organization and influence all that you do. It suffices to say, then, that your organizational culture can be either a boon to your business—something that amplifies your positive traits. Or a hindrance—a toxic element capable of bringing your organization to its knees.

Organizational culture is not to be confused with a company mission or mission statement, although, these can contribute to or define your company culture to some extent.

A strong organizational culture goes much deeper. To develop a unique organizational culture, your deep-seated values must guide all corporate functions from marketing to R&D. Remember, your company culture is a manifestation of the daily attitudes, decisions, experiences, and actions that occur within your organization.

The value system that defines your organization is exclusive to you. Often, the reason an organization was established in the first place will shed some light on its culture. Depending on your priorities, your culture might be rooted in customer service, charitable donations, employee growth and learning, environmental impact and sustainability or innovation, to name a few.

Why is organizational culture important?

The numerous benefits of a strong organizational culture compound and ripple through your business, improving experiences for employees, managers, customers and stakeholders alike.

For managers and leaders, failing to prioritize a strong organizational culture has major implications. In the U.S., for example, 51% of employees report not being engaged, meaning they neither like nor dislike their job. Employee engagement has become a hot topic in recent years and for good reason. By improving employee engagement with a strong culture, organizational leaders can lower absenteeism by 41%, boost productivity by 17%, and lower turnovers by 24%.

These benefits aren't only good news for business leaders, partners, and stakeholders. They make a difference in employee happiness too. It's not surprising that employees want to feel connected to the company for which they work. They want to feel that their contributions are acknowledged, their values align with those of the company, and that they're sufficiently compensated for their efforts, all of which can be achieved by fostering a strong organizational culture.

Company culture is also noticed outside the office walls. With organizations becoming increasingly transparent, prospective talents are always watching for opportunities to become part of an organization that resonates with their values. People like to work for companies whose ethics and values align with their own, and by improving your culture, you increase your chances of acquiring this talent.

This hiring of more skillful and enthusiastic employees can give you a decisive edge over competitors and lead to an increase in revenue of up to 33%. With new-job applicants increasingly researching prospective employers with employer rating sites such as Indeed and Glassdoor, improving your organizational culture has never been more urgent.

And it doesn't stop there. Customers notice your organizational culture too and are becoming increasingly critical of the companies to which they're handing over their hard-earned cash. By communicating your core values through product and service offerings, marketing materials, and customer service, you're able to acquire more relevant customers and build brand loyalty.

What is a culture of innovation?

A culture of innovation is a specific type of corporate culture designed to promote the development of innovations in an organization. When you build a strong innovation culture, the importance of innovation is well-communicated throughout your organization and underpins your offerings, values, attitudes and expectations.

As with other corporate cultures, a culture of innovation uses innovation as the guiding principle that drives the organization forward, influences critical decisions and affects daily operations.

Why is everyone looking for a culture of innovation?

For large companies, failing to prioritize innovation and build an innovative culture exposes them to future industry irrelevance. For startups, a culture of innovation is not so much a luxury as it is a necessity for survival. The clock is ticking and it is literally a case of life or organizational death.

However you look at it, a strong innovation culture is essential for driving organizations of all shapes and sizes forward. And this importance isn't going unnoticed. A survey of 800 U.K. business leaders found 66.67% considered innovation to be an important criterion for the success of an organization.

But what business factors do innovative cultures influence that lead to this prophesied success? Why do organizations want to have a culture of innovation?

  • Improved company growth

  • Ensures long-term industry relevance

  • Drives continuous development

  • Exposes more game-changing ideas

  • Increases decision-making diversity

  • Eliminates closed-group confirmation bias

  • Helps identify new areas for innovation

  • Attracts better and more skillful talent

  • Helps you to retain talent

  • Uncovers opportunities for product expansions

  • Helps monitor external developments and threats

  • Improves organizational agility

  • Enhances your customer offering

  • And more…

Organizations know that they need to remain agile to survive. By building a strong culture of innovation, your organization can increase its flexibility, stay ahead of competitors and secure long-term viability.

How can you create a culture of innovation?

Recognizing the importance of a culture of innovation is a great starting point, but of what use is that if one cannot implement it? Creating any corporate culture can sometimes feel like such an abstract task, it's normal for managers and leaders to become lost in the midst of ambiguity. Because cultures are usually embedded into the DNA of an organization, it's most useful to deconstruct the various aspects that define a culture of innovation.

1. Encourage collaborative innovation

Traditionally, innovations have been conducted and decided upon by top-level managers and other key decision-makers. This closed approach forces your innovation efforts to operate within a hierarchy where employees and customers are excluded from impactful change.

By opening your innovation activities and collaborating with a broader network, your entire workforce and customer base suddenly have a stake in these big decisions. What's more, encouraging collaborative innovation grows your idea pool, reduces confirmation bias and gives you access to unique insights and knowledge.

2. Go beyond ideation

Nothing holds back innovation strategies more than getting hung up on ideation. While generating ideas is a vital step to innovation, validating, developing and getting these ideas to market quickly is what ultimately delivers value.

To ensure your ideas are realized as easily and quickly as possible, design tailor-made processes that effectively carry ideas through selection, testing, incubation and implementation.

3. Design processes for different innovation types

Not all innovations are the same. While some are incremental with clear outcomes, others are far-fetched and unpredictable. Understanding the different requirements for different types of innovation is critical for assigning applicable processes.

Just like traditional departments, these innovation processes require regular improvement and streamlining to ensure that you extract maximum efficiency from your endeavors.

4. Allocate an innovation team

As with any corporate function, a team of dedicated employees must be made responsible for the various activities and tasks that make up your innovation processes. Making innovation activities end-of-day “spare time” tasks is a sure-fire way to derail any great idea.

While the ideation phase might be open to a broad spectrum of collaborators, smaller teams should be made accountable for taking the idea through selection, testing and implementation.

5. Include innovation in employee job descriptions

It's not that your employees don't have ideas. It's that they don't feel comfortable or motivated to come forward with them. Building your organisation's innovation strategies and expectations into employee job descriptions is a great way to start building a culture of innovation from day one. By outlining your desire for innovators in job descriptions, you're far more likely to attract the types of applicants you want.

6. Encourage outside-the-box thinking

What if you missed a game-changing idea because of a poor culture of innovation? Bad cultures of innovation can make employees feel nervous about coming forward with potentially revolutionary ideas, even if they might seem ludicrous at first.

By creating a safe space and a supportive network, employees feel confident expressing outside-the-box suggestions. Facilitating regular brainstorming sessions and hackathons are great ways to encourage uninhibited ideation.

7. Make employees accountable

Making employees accountable for innovation activities is a great way to build trust and encourage leadership skills. By backing your employees, not only will they be more satisfied at work, but your managers will also have more time to coordinate innovation tasks rather than micromanaging.

8. Provide innovation training programs

Innovation is a skill that can and must be acquired if your organization is to succeed. By hosting regular innovation training events, you're overtly putting innovation at the forefront of your organization, expressing its importance to your full workforce.

At these training sessions, employees and managers can learn valuable skills that help them to identify challenges, generate ideas and facilitate communication to successfully launch new innovations.

9. Acknowledge and reward innovation contributions

Recognizing key contributions to innovations is a vital part of building a strong culture of innovation. By spotting those who are innovating well within your organization, you're able to make an example of them and further iterate the importance of innovation for both employees and the organization itself.

10. Hire forward-thinking innovators

To create a culture of innovation, you need innovators. Once you set about building a culture of innovation, build your priorities into your recruitment process and make it clear to applicants what you expect of them. You want individuals who are proactive and willing to make a change, so make sure that's clear when hiring new employees.

Facilitate an innovative culture with InnovationCast

Effective innovation demands commitment from a vast network of employees, partners, managers, and customers. And building this commitment with a strong culture of innovation is a fundamental stepping stone toward long-term success.

But commitment alone isn't enough to drive innovation forward. To bring ideas to life quickly and easily, you need a system that functions and delivers results.

At InnovationCast we've developed an award-winning solution that facilitates effective, repeatable innovation in large organizations. With tailor-made solutions for all types of innovation, you can streamline your innovation processes to realize ideas quickly and maximize returns.

Ready to accelerate your innovation? Schedule a personal demo today.