What a culture of innovation looks like

Creating the conditions for innovation to happen is at the top of the agenda for any leader, but in many organizations, innovation is more of a word used between sentences than an outcome. In other organizations, innovation happens in spite of outdated beliefs and structures because someone choose to not play by the rules. In innovative organizations, on the other hand, innovation is business-as-usual; it is a mindset.

Which begs the question, what does a culture of innovation look like? When CEOs talk about “instituting innovation’, all one has to do examine companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Nike, Pixar, Tesla, SpaceX, Intuit and others to see ample evidence of thriving cultures of innovation. Yet, these and other innovative organizations are still outliers in the true sense of the word; CEOs from non-innovative businesses fall back on old guard habits.


While innovative organizations all very different from each other, there are two critical ingredients necessary to accelerate innovation in any environment they all share in common and which can easily be borrowed and applied to any organization: engagement and diversity.

With that said, if we were to make a general list of what a culture of innovation looks like, one where engagement and diversity thrive, it would look like this:

what a culture of innovation looks like

H/T Cheryl Fullerton.

While there have been many attempts to codify “what a culture of innovation looks like”, such as the above list and the image below, the point isn’t to check off the above points and go on your merry way. No, it doesn’t happen like that. For an innovative organizations is one where all of the above become habitual; not a recipe to follow.

the 12 pillars of innovation

Bottom line: Leaders that want to build an organization that innovates consistently must provide three things to employees: freedom, support and challenge. In other words, you can put it like this: Have bold goals, get out of the way and reward people for trying.