The Innovative Culture Battle is Real

Change is imperative, yet many organizations’ transformation initiatives meet numerous setbacks, failures or delays. Conversely, those that succeed are eventually confronted with the reality that they are not advancing as desired. At best, these transformations put the organizations on par with newer and more agile rivals. As the pace of change accelerates, organizations must find strategies for enhancing growth. This creates the need to establish agility and digital capacities to effectively compete with other organizations in a hyper-competitive environment. 

Creating an innovation culture cannot be classified as an organizational task or project. Rather, it is a by-product of comprehensive business decisions to transform elements of the business such as perspective, bias, objectivity and more. Consequently, organizational leaders are tasked with sparking cultural change, guiding and modelling employee behaviour, and encouraging the change to develop and grow over the long term (Groysberg et al., 2018). In addition, impacts on culture are driven by employee engagement programs and training. When employees understand the importance of change in the organization and how this will affect their work, they will be more willing to accept and implement the change.

Modern game-changing companies, like Google, SpaceX, Tesla, Tencent, and hundreds more aren't hampered by the need to change, because they were conceived with an innovative culture in their DNA. Their recruitment processes focus on cultural fit to Customer Centricity, Data-Driven, Critical Thinkers ensuring an ongoing source of fresh and hungry minds to continue to raise the bar on standards.

Leaders who want to inspire change must determine the foundational elements of innovation culture that are important for the organization and its activities in the business environment. This means monitoring events in the industry and other relevant sectors, and also recognizing the signals of change in the organization’s internal and external environment. As such, the leader evaluates the current position of the business and what it needs to become in the future in order to remain relevant in the industry. 

One of the main drivers of success in any organization is a customer-centric focus based on fine-tuning the organizational architecture so as to create a balance between customer experiences and organizational profits (Bonacchi & Perego, 2012). An organization needs to exploit the advanced database technologies and digital tools available so as to increase customer value and satisfaction. Early adaptors look for breakthrough technologies and are willing to pay significant sums of money to be the first to obtain new technology. For this reason, breaking into a market as an early adapter requires aggression and risk-taking, and organizational leaders should adopt such strategies in order to innovate and remain relevant in their industries. They must be ready to take action quickly and be agile enough to make decisions confidently, without bias, accuracy or politics, with as little downtime as is absolutely necessary. 

Employees should be allowed to experiment and brainstorm new ideas so that they can become champions of change in the organization (Doran & Ryan, 2017). When they are allowed some level of autonomy to formulate and implement innovative and new ideas, they become engaged in business processes and start to believe in the cultural transformation that is occurring. Leaders can, therefore, free up the capacity to allow employees to be creative by creating cross-functional teams that can work together on innovation projects, or give employees free innovation time that allows the employees to work on their special and innovative ideas. 

However, successful innovation also comes with fear, and many employees are often afraid of the consequences of implementing and failing in an innovative project. However, the effective development of an innovative culture requires that the leader takes this fear away, for instance by creating key performance indicators (KPIs) around pushing for innovation, rewarding process, or innovative thinking over explicit achievements. Nevertheless, change does not occur swiftly or easily. 

During the process of cultural change and innovation, it is critical to build credibility in the entire organization, based on an agreed collection of terms, frameworks and measure that all align to. This means that the organization’s leadership also needs to act as role models that visibly practice what they expect employees to do, and also follow through on what they have communicated. When the employees see that leadership is also practising an innovative culture, they will be motivated to do the same. Ultimately, it will lead to increased business growth and customer satisfaction. 


Bonacchi, M., & Perego, P. (2012). Improving profitability with customer-centric strategies: The case of a mobile content provider. Strategic Change, 20(7-8), 253-267.

Doran, J., & Ryan, G. (2017). The role of stimulating employees’ creativity and idea generation in encouraging innovation behaviour in Irish firms. The Irish Journal of Management, 36(1), 32-48.

Groysberg, B., Lee, J., Price, J., & Cheng, J. (2018). The leader’s guide to corporate culture. Harvard Business Review, 96(1), 44-52.

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The Innovative Culture Battle is Real

Scott Bales is a global futurist, innovation & digital strategist, serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker at TEDx and a best-selling author.

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