A Culture Of Innovation – How Do You Know?

While many organizations claim to operate within a culture of innovation only about 1/3 of Fortune 1000 companies have formal innovation metrics in place.  Lacking a measurement system does not mean the firm doesn’t value innovation.  After all, unless you are 3M and making your living by bringing new inventions to market, measuring innovation can be a little like nailing jello to the wall.  

Questions to ask:

  • When people try new things and make mistakes are they celebrated or vilified?
  • Have you lost valued talent from stifling creativity or empowerment?
  • Are ideas from the rank and file pushed to the side citing lack of time?
  • Do you have an open and transparent platform for collecting innovative ideas – one that encourages collaboration and maximizes the thinking power of the organization?

I’m a process oriented person – almost a conformist. I admire companies like McDonald’s for their efficiency and consistency through process. But I’m also highly creative. That means I’m open to changing processes in search of better results. I’m driven to find that magical balance between the need for efficient process and an appreciation for innovation. 

“Corporate culture is, above all, the most important factor in driving innovation.” Rajesh Chandy, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and a charter member of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advisory Committee on Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century Economy

Learning resources:

How To Create A Corporate Culture Of Innovation – Business Insider War Room

How Corporate Culture Promotes Innovation


7 Replies to “A Culture Of Innovation – How Do You Know?”

  1. Susan, I just love how you think. If things don’t work out could you perhaps get me a placement at 3M – LOVE those guys and would love to put all my creative ideas to work for them. I read about them many years ago and used their examples of promoting innovation many times in my classes. If only they had a Winnipeg office! HA HA Take care! I can’t wait to read your next post.


    1. Hi Anna,

      I’m with you – 3M is awesome. Maybe we could create a side career by submitting ideas to them. That way we could continue to live in our chosen cities and we wouldn’t have to ask 3M to relocate their plant on our behalf.

      Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment.


  2. Who is going to listen to the world’s most innovative janitor?

    I was curious about the concept of “measuring innovation”, the reason for doing it, as well as the means for doing it – competently. Can you offer some examples? And explain how the rubric did more good than less, for a company? It raises an interesting tension between managing ‘the knowns’ and ‘the unknowns’ in daily life.

    My curiosity led me to click through on the SAI list of ways to create a culture of innovation. And I disagree Lisa Barone’s list.

    Let me unpack the first bullet point, to explain:

    The “abolish-the-hierarchy” meme sounds too cute to be effective. Once hierarchy is gone, how should a leader, a manager, or followers be expected to cope without it?

    If innovation is lacking in a corporate culture, this type of response assumes that a random agent will cook it up – at random, for altruistic reasons that are hard to explain, and won’t need to be explained. Be they: the janitor, the product manager, the package designer, or the facilities manager, or the external management consultant. It is the innovation-can-come-from-many-places meme.

    It can. It does. And it should.

    But ask yourself this simple question, when the janitor sez: “Hey CEO! I have an idea. A good one. We should stop making products that do x, and start making products that do y! How cool is that??” What difference will it make in a corporation without leadership?

    Who is going to listen to the world’s most innovative janitor?

    The CEO? She’s busy. The head of product strategy? He is insulted. The marketing manager, who sells people things to people they didn’t know they ever needed? She has no audience in mind. The point I am illustrating here is simple. Power dynamics and structure are levers of corporate culture. Making do without them equals anarchy. And because anarchy won’t last for long, anarchy will be replaced with nihilism.

    There are many companies exploring and innovating ways to promote ‘outsider innovation’, more commonly called ‘Open Innovation’. But all of those programs that I know of, come crashing against a simple reality: that the final arbiters of judgment in a corporation are the same people. Ouch.

    People holding the same conceits, the same logic, and the same fears. The leaders who will judge an outsider’s values, arguments, notions, and reasoning, are same people getting in the way of those who play well and function within existing chains of command.

    It amounts to a who-polices-the-police-problem.

    Jack Welch lead GE to record levels of organic growth – the corporate measure of innovation. And he remains an icon of corporate power, centralized control and hierarchy. (Steve Jobs, and Lou Gerstner did the same.) But his power dynamic practiced leadership that introduced ‘creative destruction’ into the corporate culture.

    Now back to Lisa. I have disagreements with her other bullet points as well. If I were to guess, I would say that these points started out life as list of ’10 ways to kill innovation in a corporation’. But rewording the symptoms of the patient doesn’t add up to a coherent diagnosis.

    That said, lists like this lure readers like me into clicking through SAI say ten, if not twenty times… which helps SAI to pay the bills.

    Innovative idea? Meh. Does Henry Blodget need a more innovative corporate culture at SAI? Let’s ask the janitor, shall we?


    1. Hi Michael,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave such a well thought out comment. You really gave me pause.

      Your comment helped me realize my post was written specifically about innovating on processes rather than creating new products through R&D but because I was writing from within my own world I didn’t think to identify that perspective.

      What led me to creating this post yesterday was some material from Seth Godin and an article on 3M. I did manage to find one of the pieces from Accenture – you can access it here.

      Please stop by again. I’m already a subscriber to your blog and enjoy your point of view.


  3. I think outside the box and have a problem with the corporate world. I admire my sister who has had the same job for 25 years in IT. I have yet to discover what I truly want to do.


    1. Jackie, thank you for taking the time to comment. I took the liberty of reading your LinkedIn profile. You’ve got broad and varied experience and I see that the positions you’ve held have required studies. By any chance would you consider yourself a change agent? Maybe you’ve already found your role and it involves doing many things for many employers, sharing your ideas and learning on a larger scale.


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