OI Quick Tips from the Chair: How do you foster an innovative organization?

Practical Insights from Cheryl PerkinsCoDev2015 Conference Chairperson

Quick Tip #1: How do you foster an innovative organization?

Cheryl Perkins CoDev 2015 Chair

Innovative organizations have a research and discovery culture where concepts and prototyping are the way of doing business.  Just as importantly, failure is accepted because it allows the organization to learn quickly and jumpstart its next initiative.  Failure can also provide useful perspective on limitations.

Leaders in such organizations are willing to take calculated risks and aren’t paralyzed by fear of consequences.  They also recognize that innovation requires communication.  There is openness and trust with communication – and what is said is done.  Constructive confrontation and debates are viewed as healthy.  New ideas are supported, given time to incubate, and are laddered up into more robust platforms. Are these elements in place at your company?

If you are managing a new innovation effort, you might want to ask yourself the following questions to make sure you are, in fact, ‘tilling the soil’ for growth:

  1. Do you frequently and consistently share your goals and vision with your staff?
  2. What about day-to-day decisions and the tough issues that you and your leaders are working through?
  3. How do people in your company talk with each other to solve problems?  Are there informal face-to-face meetings, emails, and teleconferences — or do people keep more to themselves and sweep problems under the rug?
  4. Do you provide knowledge-sharing mechanisms and enabling tools?

Changing one’s business approach to be more innovative starts with understanding.  If you want to understand how your culture works, take a look at your formal and informal communication channels. Many companies have found that sharing — beyond procedures and protocols — goes a long way toward building trust and loyalty.  Leaders at Axion Health, Amway, and Royal DSM — among others — have led innovation teams through culture changes that not only built trust, but enabled greater innovation and growth. Once you understand your unique culture and what it might need, you can work toward change. Know that it might be a long process, but if you are willing to face the challenge and the setbacks that come with the journey, the rewards will be well worth the time and effort.


For further reading, change management expert Dr. David A. Shore of Harvard University shares ideas on leading open innovation change initiatives.