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What is a culture of innovation?


Innovation is the result of taking new ideas and applying them to achieve a result. In other words, it’s creativity’s practical partner.

An organisation can’t have a culture of innovation without first having creativity – and everyone has that. Equally, there’s no value in creativity if the organisation never harnesses it and puts it to work. And everyone loses.

If an organisation is really going to benefit from this partnership of creativity and innovation, something else is essential too – they both must be deeply and permanently embedded into the daily life of the organisation’s people.

You know you have an innovation culture when people consistently think creatively, apply creative thinking tools to workplace problems and turn new ideas into workplace innovations.

The process for making such a transformation requires a conscious, collective commitment that begins with the organisation’s leaders.

What innovative organisations know

Innovative organisations know that for breakthroughs to occur, they must value unusual or new ideas and be prepared to try them. They allow people to explore new ways of doing things, and to experiment and make mistakes during the process.

If you think that sounds easier said than done, you’re right. An innovation culture never arises out of anything as comfortable as some short-term ‘quick fix’ or the promises of ‘feel-good’ statements about a brighter future.

An innovation culture is the result of deliberate and detailed attention

Research has shown a successful innovation culture in organisations requires clear leadership and a systematic approach that everyone embraces.

Truly innovative organisations only get that way because their leaders decide the organisation is going to adopt, implement and stick at the following practices, and permanently build all of them into its culture.

  • A structured approach for developing an overall innovation strategy with policies and plans that cover everything they do
  • A process for creative problem solving and developing and implementing innovative solutions
  • Ideas management systems for generating, capturing, evaluating, implementing and, if possible, commercialising new ideas and solutions
  • Fostering a variety of thinking styles; understanding left and right brain activity
  • Encouraging people to apply their thinking styles in individual, team and organisational problem-solving activities
  • Expecting improvement, and measuring the results of creativity and innovation.

Yes, an innovation culture can be challenging

There are challenges for every organisation, especially for those that

  • focus on managing risk, particularly when they have high levels of risk
  • put a high value on compliance
  • have to follow detailed processes

However, these are the very organisations that realise some of the greatest benefits from innovation.

About Author

Peter Newman Managing Director BEc, Dip Public Admin, Cert IV Government Investigations, Cert III Investigation Services.

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