Walking The Innovation Talk

An organization’s culture is the driving force behind innovation. You can have the best minds on your team, but nothing will happen if the environment doesn’t let them bring out their full potential. It’s an environment that values and encourages creativity, risk taking, experimentation, learning. Innovation doesn’t happen without experimentation, which means making mistakes.

Culture is defined by an organization’s values. So these values have to be aligned to innovation, and they have to be practiced. I recently helped an organization determine it’s values. One of them, be creative and open minded, got a very particular response which I’ll share with you here:

“Being creative and open minded” might get us into trouble with the client. Specifically, the client can perceive that we can make mistakes with their transactions; this could lead to legal repercussions. We could call this a value and could be malinterpreted like we’re experimenting behind their backs.

This organization wants to be better for its clients, they really do. They want to been seen as innovative. Still, the idea of “being creative and open minded” created some noise for some people. Why? Because it’s exactly as this person said, there could me mistakes and they’d rather avoid them.

But here’s what I told them: Innovation and failure are inseparable twins.

Innovation is the opposite of safe. So aspiring to be innovative means accepting that mistakes will be made, they have to be made. More importantly, you have to learn from these mistakes and keep pushing forward. You won’t arrive at “better” if you’re unwilling to experiment; there’s no way around it.

Your company won’t grow if your people don’t grow. Personal growth only happens when you’re challenged, and any worthy challenge will be full of unknowns that can only be answered through courage and creativity.