Building a culture that drives innovation

Building a culture that drives innovation

We’ve been hearing the same thing for the last how many years…How is your company going to complete its digital transformation? First, it would be nice to have a clear definition of what this ‘digital transformation’ thing is, but in reality, there is no clear definition or destination. The transformation will be ongoing, never-ending, and will continue to morph over time as new technologies evolve. Really, the question should be, How do we develop a culture within our company that drives innovation?

Any way you look at it, most companies struggle with achieving these technological transformations not because of their business strategy but instead, because of their company’s culture. More than ever before, when it comes to achieving success and fostering innovation, culture trumps strategy! That said, how do we create a culture that drives innovation?

Effective Change Starts at the Top

Driving innovation and changing the way a company processes everything it does is hardly an HR project. Creative, innovative thinking that fosters change and innovation must come from the very top of the organization. CEO’s no longer can hide from the need to understand the latest technologies and how those technologies can impact their business outcomes. If you are a CEO and you don’t understand technology – get with it! Look for more opportunities to learn, set up meetings that force your LOB executives and your CIO/IT management to work collaboratively. If your company is going to be innovative, which it needs to be if it is going to survive, then it is your responsibility to drive that innovation.

Effective Leadership Starts with Effective Communication

Ever since Simon Sinek introduced his concept of the Golden Circle and answering the “Why” in his famous 2009 TED Talk, people have become obsessed with the why? And thus, if you are going to ask your employees to learn new technology and change the way they work, they are going to want to know why they are being asked to do this. To be an inspirational leader, one that truly motivates your people, you need to be close to your people and constantly reinforce the “why” the company needs to make this change.

Consistently Addressing the ‘Why’ Builds Trust and Confidence

How many times have we lived this experience? The company makes a big announcement, there is a big splash about how some new project is going to change everything, and three weeks later people have forgotten about the announcement and are back to doing things the way they have always done them. If you are going to create a culture based upon trust and confidence, then you need to consistently communicate with your employees. Answering the ‘why’ one time doesn’t get it done! Find ways to creatively communicate your message to your employees and communicate often. Use video, let them see you, humanize your message instead of keeping with the typical corporate memo. Share how innovation is transforming your customer experience or improving your internal operations. Let them feel your conviction for the change you are fostering.

Live the Innovation and Make It Fun!

I know, it sounds silly. Make it fun? That’s right. Have you ever been a part of winning team? A team that had to overcome adversity, had to deal with unknowns and some hardships along the way? What kept you going? Business may be business but learning new things, challenging one’s self and growing one’s abilities, seeing concrete improvements and achieving success – that is when business is fun.


Being innovative is all about accepting the reality that we must change. That starts with answering the ‘why’ for your people. Effective leadership, creating a culture that drives innovation, is all about effective communication. Be bold, let your people feel your conviction and you will create a culture that drives innovation. It’s all about how you choose to lead.

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