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7 Ideas for Cultivating a Culture of Innovation

Leaders today are shaping their company’s culture to drive innovation. Yet, there is no one culture that fits all. An innovative culture is one that not only encourages new ideas but also makes those ideas happens; not only provides structure but also adapts to an ever-changing landscape within and outside of the organization; not only makes room for growth but also embraces failures. How each company builds an innovative organization though is unique.

“An innovative company encourages ideas but also provides a process and platform where ideas can come to fruition,” says YPO member Greg Besner, the founder and CEO of CultureIQ, a human resources technology platform for measuring and managing organizational culture. “The 2015 Entrepreneur and CultureIQ Top Company Cultures found that 86 percent of employees believe their companies encourage new ideas and only 75 percent understand the process of how to communicate those ideas. You have to have the culture and structure for those ideas to become reality.”

Besner shares his insights on how to foster a culture of innovation with values and a mission that can help guide a company through uncharted territory:

Be open to innovation

“Innovation can come from the most unlikely places. It’s not necessarily your executive vice president of strategy that comes up with the idea. It can often be people that are performing the day-to-day tactical execution. Ideas can come from any place, from any person, at any time. That’s why it’s so important that to have a culture that encourages putting forward innovations.”

Encourage trial and error

“A culture where employees fear retribution can stifle innovation. You need to celebrate and learn from mistakes so people aren’t afraid to make them because there would be no innovation without people taking risks. Stay away from the blame game. Consider it an experiment. Maybe the overall innovation didn’t work but some part of it turns out to be the silver lining. ”

Be intentional about your culture

“Don’t let it just happen. Make sure you are collaborating with your company and team to articulate your mission and values, and that your values and mission are in alignment with how your company operates. You have to involve everyone in your organization in the process, and it’s not just an upfront process but an ongoing one. Every time you add an employee, you change your culture. You have to constantly re-evaluate your culture to make sure your mission and values are still in alignment with the people you’ve recruited.”

Measure the impact

“As a leader, you may feel you encourage innovation and provide a platform to accomplish innovation but a best practice would be to ask your team if they feel the company has a culture and process in place to move ideas through the organization. Get feedback from the organization to make sure you have the optimal framework and culture in place, and then correlate innovation with other key performance indicators such as productivity, efficiency, profitability and revenue. You can determine not only if you have a culture and a process for innovation but also the impact.”

Get a third-party perspective

“When you’re trying to collect unfiltered feedback, employees will provide the most helpful and honest feedback when they do not fear retribution. Having a third party anonymously collect that feedback can mitigate any concerns. And make sure that employees recognize the feedback has been heard. Sharing the aggregate results with employees so they know they have a voice is also important.”

Get constant feedback

“Technology has made communication ubiquitous. A generation ago, the state of the art was to give and get employee feedback once a year. We’ve gone from once-a-year feedback to two-way feedback and now intraday constant communication. If you wait a year to give and get feedback, you’re not in alignment with this generation of workers and your competitors in the industry have moved a year ahead of you because people are communicating in real time.”

Be a workplace of the future

“In the past, people were competing to work at Fortune 500 companies for stability, compensation and benefits. Today that’s changed dramatically. The future generation of employees wants to be innovators. They want to work for companies that are building new solutions.”


YPO members can participate and learn more from fellow business leaders and leading innovators who are charged with driving innovation across a diverse range of industries and sectors during YPO Innovation Week, 7-11 May 2018.

YPO is the premier global leadership organization for more than 27,000 chief executives in over 130 countries and the global platform for them to engage, learn and grow. YPO members harness the knowledge, influence and trust of the world’s most influential and innovative business leaders to inspire business, personal, family and community impact. Today, YPO member-run companies, diversified among industries and types of businesses, employ more than 22 million people globally and generate USD9 trillion in annual revenues.