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Great Innovation: Why Culture Matters

 

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Hannah Elise Jones

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March 16, 2015

Great Innovation: Why Culture Matters

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Trust in the Workplace Building a Foundation for Innovation

Innovation has always been central to achieving a competitive advantage in business, but now, more so than ever, companies are focusing on innovation as part of their business strategy. Seventy five percent of organizations that responded to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, ranked innovation as one of their company's top three priorities, and of those 22 percent said it was their top priority. With all this focus on innovation, how are companies getting ahead? When everyone is investing in innovation, what is it that helps some become truly great innovative organizations?

Innovation and Organizational Culture

At Great Place to Work® we know that having a strong organizational culture rooted in trust is a foundational element of innovation success at best companies. Organizations with strong values, supportive leaders, and an environment that allows for risk taking are far more conducive to innovative success than those without. Our Trust Index survey evaluates many of these important organizational behaviors and we see that companies on the 100 Best Companies to Work for List average eight to twelve points higher on the behavioral statements that we believe are key to innovation.

The specific statements we use to assess innovation readiness measure the following behaviors within organizations:

  • Appreciation of good work and effort

  • Recognizing honest mistakes

  • Genuinely seeking and responding to feedback

  • Involving others in decisions

  • Fostering cooperation among employees

Not only are these behaviors important to creating and sustaining great workplaces, they are key to successful innovation. Without a supportive and trusting culture that allows employees to make mistakes, seek feedback, and cooperate with one another, innovation initiatives go nowhere, which is why despite the significant investment companies make in innovation programs they don't all see success. Innovation is about so much more than learning a new model, recruiting top talent, or creating fun workspaces. True innovation comes from an organizational culture founded in trust, which fosters collaboration, risk-taking, and creative thinking.

How Your Organization Can Create a Culture of Innovation

Like all great workplace initiatives, the work starts at the top. Organizations with truly innovative cultures have strong missions and committed leaders that guide employees through challenge and allow innovative behaviors to occur. Employees must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in order to succeed when crossing into the uncharted territory demanded by the innovation process. They need to know which behaviors are accepted in the organization and which are not. It is within the supportive and clearly-defined space of a strong organizational culture that employees have the most freedom to innovate in ways that truly serve the mission and the success of their organizations.

Organizational leaders who can create this space are allowing their employees the ability to engage in more innovative behaviors on a regular basis. When thought of in this way, creating an organizational environment that fosters innovation, is really no different than creating a great workplace culture.

Learn More About Culture and Innovation

This year at our conference Great Place to Work® consultants and leaders of recognized Best Companies will be presenting breakout sessions on innovation. To learn more about these sessions and others, or to register for the annual conference in Dallas in April visit our conference webpage.

Here are four sessions at the conference that will address the intersection of culture and innovation at great workplaces:

  • American Express - Reimagining Learning: Using Design Thinking to Create Engaging Learning and Development Experiences That Drive Innovation and Growth
  • Goldman Sachs - The Innovation Generation: How Millennials are Reshaping the Workforce
  • Scripps Health - Driving Culture and Innovation through a Five Generation Workforce
  • Great Place to Work® - Using Organizational Culture as a Compass for Innovation

If you are interested in learning more about how Great Place to Work® assesses organizational culture and innovation readiness visit our site to learn more about our services.

About Hannah
Hannah Jones is an Analyst on the Services and Products, Consulting Team at Great Place to Work®, supporting client delivery, research and product development. Hannah has a degree from UC Berkeley in Psychology of Leadership.

Hannah Elise Jones