BOF 3.0 – Culture of Innovation Session

by Braden Kelley


The first of the Brightidea Birds of a Feather (BOF 3.0) unconference discussion sessions I attended posed the question – What are the key elements of building a culture of innovation and what is the leader’s role?

Here are some of the key insights and comments from the session:

  • There was a great deal of discussion around the role of the leader in creating a culture of innovation by being a direction setter, venture-capitalist, talent scout, mentor, and silo-buster.
  • It was also felt that is was important that respect for people be demonstrated or the culture will not change.
  • Accountability vs. Authority – Often times people are made accountable for achieving innovation gains, but are not provided the authority to actually work to make it happen.
  • “You are going to inspect what you expect.”
  • It is important to strike the balance between operational excellence and ideating/initiating growth
  • It is worth considering the use of open book management so that people can better understand how to contribute to the organization’s success
  • Innovating within an ecosystem versus innovating within a company
    • How do you enable more nodes in the network to collaborate?
    • Defensive IP management is restrictive to innovation
    • I need to move from IP defense to IP offense
    • IP and IT and Finance are often anti-business teams (they work against innovating fast)

  • We explored the concept that the leader should only have the role of driving change (versus maintenance or command & control)
  • Leaders must understand that tomorrow will be different than today and that when you start trying to protect today – you are dead
  • What signals are your corporate policies sending to employees about innovation?
  • Leaders are responsible for strategic clarity – this applies to innovation too
  • Do leaders need to change their focus from shareholders to employees if they want to drive innovation?
  • Does a leader enable people to take risk? (“If you don’t fall down skiing, you won’t get better”)
    • Adobe has a program to allow executives to bet their bonus on ideas they believe in
    • SAP is trying to implement a mulligan policy to encourage people to take innovation risks

Overall the session was very lively, with good discussion. People definitely want to create cultures of innovation in their organization, and are finding their way there little by little. Ultimately, you don’t make an innovative culture, you make changes to strategy, policies, processes, systems, and training that cause slight changes in people’s behavior that over time can effect how innovative a culture becomes.

What things in your mind help to make a culture more innovative or restrict it from being so?

More from the Brightidea Birds of a Feather (BOF 3.0):


Braden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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