How Innovative Leaders Built an Innovative Culture

It is crucial for organizations to maintain their focus on innovation to be successful. Innovation leaders are able to foster and promote cultures that spark creativity and risk-taking, that motivate and reward employees to think out of the box, and that channel ideas into increased stakeholders’ value. However, these hallmarks of innovative organizations are not easily replicated by those organizations most in need of an innovation overhaul. Time and again, organizations have found that building a culture of continuous innovation can be a most difficult and elusive target. 

To be successful, innovative leaders need to build an innovative culture that encourages creativity, a front-end process to evaluate and prioritize ideas, and a back-end process for transforming ideas into viable action plans.

An organization will be more innovative
if the organization has cultural values and practices for innovation among employees.

Further, a culture of continuous innovation is characterized as a dynamic process where creativity is encouraged, innovation is systematized, and implementation is promoted. Innovative leaders need to understand the relationships and dynamics among creativity, innovation, and implementation: (a) creativity is the wellspring of ideas that feed innovation, (b) innovation transforms creative ideas into viable action plans, and (c) implementation fosters additional creativity. This process represents a dynamic cycle and can subsequently fosters additional creative ideas. Creating a culture of innovation typically starts with leadership establishing an innovation strategy followed by providing the necessary support. 

Thus, it is important that innovative leaders set this dynamic system in motion by assessing and aligning the key organizational levers implicit in creativity, innovation, and implementation from both a formal and informal organizational standpoint.

Each component can be promoted by various organizational levers. For instance, creativity can be created by establishing creativity as an organizational core value. Refer to the table for the various organizational levers of creativity, innovation, and implementation:

can be 
created by
·    Establish creativity as a core value
·    Establish creativity as criteria for acquisition and development of people
·    Communicate the importance of idea generation to the success of the
·    Set aggressive goals and solicit input on how to accomplish them
can be
systemized by
·    Build an organization that fosters innovation
·    Define success in terms of key metrics and then allow the freedom to
choose the process
·    Quantify the impact of increased innovation
·    Streamline processes and eliminate layers of review
·    Redesign work processes into project-focused activities
can be
promoted by
·    Build a strong organization success case for change
·    Identify clear targets and track progress
·    Identify and develop key leaders who can facilitate change 
·    Provide clear incentives for reaching the targets
·    Develop a staffing model that will provide focused resources for key
·    Develop a customized process for managing change
·    Develop new functional skills and expertise
Organizational levers of creativity, innovation, and implementation

Creating a culture of innovation that is truly effective and transforming for the organization has at least three components. First, leaders must understand a culture of innovation and utilize various organizational levers of creativity, innovation, and implementation. Second, the organization’s culture must be understood and deliberately crafted. Third, employees must understand and buy-into this culture, realize the organization’s goals related to innovation, and feel empowered to be innovative.

Building a culture of continuous innovation is about creating a process and a mindset to envision and shape the future. However, a culture of continuous innovation is multi-faceted and includes periodic assessment of other factors, such as organizational plans, work systems, communications / decision making, managerial leadership, and training / rewards.

The organization can maximize
their return on investment by building a culture of sustained innovation. 

Therefore, effective innovative leaders should constantly ask and answer: where are we, where do we want to go, and how do we get there? In today’s global business environment, building a culture of continuous innovation is not just desirable, it is an imperative.

More here:
Park, J. G., & Donahue, W. E. (2018). Building a culture of continuous innovation. In Innovation Leadership (pp. 44-51). Taylor and Francis.