Priorities for Building an Innovation Culture

Priorities for Building an Innovation Culture

The 97th Floor Mastermind Series recently interviewed IdeaScale about our company, our industry, our vision for the future and more, but we thought that one of their questions about what values we look out for when building a team are worth repeating here for those of you that are looking to build a culture of innovation at your company (whether it’s start-up sized like IdeaScale or not).

Here are two values that help us achieve our innovation goals:

Continuous Learning. This means encouraging curiosity but also pairing it with a freedom to fail. This is actually asking for a big cultural shift from most enterprise level organization who have always looked for and celebrated a culture of experts. Well, with technology and trends constantly shifting rapidly, the age of the expert is over. Now we need people who are inquiring and fascinated – people who want to explore new things, who are willing to risk looking like an “idiot” in service of the learning curve. We want people who are excited by the horizon and who know that failure is just a part of the learning experience.

How do you live this value? Well, for one, you can encourage (or even incentivize) learning. That means taking classes, developing new skills (even outside your own discipline) and share that personal development in the workplace. You also want to celebrate and showcase failures or mistakes so that people know it’s okay to make a mistake, correct it, and move on from it. That way as people start learning something new, they can feel pleased with their progress and continue their journey rather than minimizing their exposure to new concepts.

Diversity. You know what’s a bad sign for innovation? When everyone agrees with one another. It’s a sure sign that what you’re doing isn’t innovative. It’s no surprise that organizations with a high degree of diversity are 70% more likely to report having captured a new market – the chorus of voices lends for a wider range of ideas and more creativity when building out ideas. So it’s important to strategically invest in diversity: in recruiting, in leadership, in ideation, in workspaces, and more.

And diversity means a lot of things: from age, race, gender, etc but also in opinion, viewpoint, life experience and more. Find ways to encourage divergent  perspectives rather than always prioritizing unity. Adam Grant (author of ) even suggests creating a contrarian team role for idea development – a devil’s advocate that the rest of the team has to work with in order to implement their idea. Even if you don’t end up adopting the devil’s advocate’s position – there’s value to the discussion.

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.