What’s the Starting Point for Building a Culture of Innovation?

What's the Starting Point for Building a Culture of Innovation?

What’s the Starting Point for Building a Culture of Innovation?

Cultivating a culture of innovation is a critical endeavor for any forward-thinking company, and it often begins at the top. We’ve gathered insights from CEOs and Directors to share their successful practices. From setting the innovation tone to recognizing an “Innovator of the Month”, explore the diverse strategies in these fourteen expert responses that can help foster an innovative mindset within your team.

  • Leaders Set the Innovation Tone
  • Innovation from Necessity and Creativity
  • Empowerment Through Challenge Sprints
  • Promote Cross-Functional and Safe Workplaces
  • Top-Down Approach to Innovation Culture
  • Showcase Work in Weekly Presentations
  • Ideation to Implementation Success
  • Empower Teams for Continuous Improvement
  • Incorporate Innovation into Individual Objectives
  • Think Tanks and In-House Project Success
  • Brainwave Sessions Drive Creative Culture
  • Regular Brainstorming Sparks Innovation
  • Leadership Vision Fosters Creativity
  • Innovator of the Month Inspires Creativity


Leaders Set the Innovation Tone

Fostering a culture of innovation generally begins with leaders. Leaders need to encourage innovative thinking and actively demonstrate it by their openness to new ideas and their willingness to take risks. Consider implementing an “okay to fail” policy, allowing employees at all levels, from C-level to line-level, to experiment with ideas without fear of repercussions if they don’t work out. 

At Sachs Marketing Group, we’ve had tremendous success with regular “brainstorming” sessions, allowing every team member to propose and debate new ideas, concepts, and policies—no matter how “outside the box” they may seem. 

By doing this, we’ve uncovered some amazing ideas and processes, but almost more importantly, the process has cultivated a sense of ownership and collaboration across our entire agency.

Eric Sachs, CEO, Sachs Marketing Group


Innovation from Necessity and Creativity

As advocates of innovation, my team and I strive to inspire transformation within other businesses. Innovation thrives on the edges of convention, often springing from unexpected places, like Herb Peterson’s story. 

As a former WWII Marine and McDonald’s franchise owner, he faced early morning hunger from customers. To meet this demand, he ingeniously transformed Eggs Benedict into the portable Egg McMuffin using a Teflon-coated iron ring. 

The iconic Egg McMuffin was born—an epitome of innovation at the intersection of necessity and creativity, forever altering the landscape of fast-food breakfasts. This stroke of creativity birthed an iconic breakfast item, proving that innovation can emerge from unexpected places.

Andrew Barry, CEO, Curious Lion


Empowerment Through Challenge Sprints

Innovation flourishes when everyone feels empowered to contribute. So, the starting point? Everywhere! Here’s a successful initiative: We launched “Challenge Sprints.” Teams tackle real business problems for a short, focused period. This sparks collaboration, breaks down silos, and leads to fresh perspectives.

It’s not just about the solutions—it’s about fostering a culture of open thinking, experimentation, and celebrating “out-of-the-box” ideas. Ready to ignite your team’s innovation engine? Let’s connect.

Julian Bruening, CEO, MLP Software Development


Promote Cross-Functional and Safe Workplaces

The secret to an organization’s sustained success and growth is to foster an innovative and inquisitive culture. By making these principles the foundation of the business culture, employees will be empowered to provide fresh perspectives, opening up new possibilities for groundbreaking outcomes. Even though many leaders recognize how important it is to promote these values, many still lack confidence in their ability to uplift their staff.

Promote Inter-Functional Collaboration

Innovation frequently necessitates cooperation between teams, departments, and divisions within an organization. In order to spur creativity and discover original solutions to challenging problems, cross-functional collaboration can bring together a variety of viewpoints and specialties. We use our workforce’s aggregate experience and discover novel solutions to intricate problems by promoting cross-functional collaboration. This results in brand-new and enhanced products, services, and processes that boost the business’s profitability and expansion.

Creating a Safe Environment for Psychological Safety

Understanding the establishment of a psychologically safe work environment within the company must be a priority for industry executives. It holds the key to creating an environment where staff members are encouraged to speak out and share their opinions. It inspires people to start thought-provoking dialogues and pose questions to pique others’ interests. By exercising empathy, avoiding a blame culture, and fostering an inclusive decision-making process, we create a psychologically secure atmosphere.

Give Employees’ Voices Priority

Giving priority to your staff members’ voices may also lead to concrete employee engagement strategies. Regular company-wide conversations that welcome participation from all levels or focused employee experience surveys are two examples of this. However, these strategies will only be effective if you support them with subtle but consistent indications that you value the voice of your team.

Erica Tan, CEO, Best in Singapore


Top-Down Approach to Innovation Culture

As with anything regarding company culture, change must start at the top.

Rank-and-file staff never take behavioral change initiatives seriously when managers and business leaders don’t either, as people inevitably follow by example. However, if staff visibly see senior management adopting its principles, this signals that real change is coming, and they will follow suit.

This is particularly important when it comes to innovation, as staff are often fearful of raising ideas or thinking outside the box at first. However, once they see senior leaders being receptive and appreciative of new ideas, then innovation will skyrocket, ingraining itself into the culture.

In my experience, the simplest way of operationalizing this is to just ask employees for ideas and to reassure them that their ideas will be listened to and respected. Even if no one raises an idea, this shows a commitment to the principles of innovation and lets staff know that we take it seriously.

Ben Schwencke, Business Psychologist, Test Partnership


Showcase Work in Weekly Presentations

Every Friday, we have two team members present something they are working on. It can be a creative solution to a complex problem, asking for ideas to navigate a tricky situation, or even sharing how they have managed relationships with clients. Giving them this space to show off their work encourages employees to be creative and also inspires their peers.

Corey Schwitz, CEO and Founder, Skydog Ops


Ideation to Implementation Success

In my journey with Rockerbox, fostering a culture of innovation began with addressing the need for businesses, especially small ones, to access and leverage tax credits effectively. From experience, a key practice that instilled innovative thinking was the ‘Ideation to Implementation’ program, which encouraged employees at all levels to identify pain points in our service delivery and propose technological or process-based solutions.

A standout initiative from this program was the development of a user-friendly, integrated platform for businesses to navigate and apply for various tax credits seamlessly. This idea originated from a customer service associate who noticed recurring challenges faced by clients. By fostering an inclusive environment where such observations could be transformed into actionable projects, not only did we enhance our service offering, but we also significantly increased client satisfaction and company revenue.

To solidify this culture, I made it a point to celebrate all contributions, irrespective of the outcome. This approach removed the fear of failure, encouraging more employees to come forward with their ideas. Regularly scheduled “Show and Tell” sessions were held where teams shared their projects, learnings, and next steps. This practice nurtured a sense of ownership and pride among employees and provided them with tangible examples of how innovation could drive personal growth and company success. Embracing these values and practices fundamentally shifted our organizational mindset, making innovation a core aspect of our DNA at Rockerbox.

Philip Wentworth, Jr, Co-Founder and CEO, Rockerbox


Empower Teams for Continuous Improvement

Fostering a culture of innovation starts with the founder or CEO by empowering the team. Empowering your team will foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. Give your team the autonomy, authority, and resources to experiment, learn, and implement changes. Encourage them to share their ideas, feedback, and suggestions, and listen to them attentively.

In my company, we have provided our team with the tools, training, and support they need to develop their skills and capabilities. We recognize and reward their efforts and achievements, and celebrate their successes. This has helped us build trust, engagement, and ownership among our team, and foster a growth mindset and a learning culture.

Scott Evans, Director, Gorilla360


Incorporate Innovation into Individual Objectives

Innovation cannot be restricted to a small subset of employees in a company. Instead, a specified set of actions and deliverables must be included in innovation objectives that are cascaded down to each person’s responsibilities. By ensuring that all members of the organization are committed to fostering innovation, this strategy helps the business succeed as a whole.

A group needs time, space, and resources to test and improve ideas. Assist your team by providing them with the tools and finances they need to investigate and develop their ideas, including technology, coaching, mentoring, and training. Give them the freedom and flexibility to organize their own schedules, manage their own work, and pursue their own interests. This will give your team more confidence to innovate and produce.

Steve Neher, CEO, Mail KIng USA


Think Tanks and In-House Project Success

Fostering a culture of innovation begins at the leadership level but flourishes through every layer of the organization. In my role as President of TechTrone IT Services, I’ve observed that innovation thrives on two key principles: openness and empowerment. We introduced a practice called “TechTrone Think Tanks”—a series of regular, informal gatherings where team members from different departments are encouraged to share ideas and insights, no matter how out-of-the-box or unrefined they might seem.

One specific initiative that successfully instilled an innovative mindset among our team involved leveraging our in-house talents to develop a new project management tool tailored to our unique needs. This project began as a suggestion in one of our Think Tanks, where a team member highlighted inefficiencies in existing third-party tools. By allocating time and resources to this internal project, not only did we develop a solution that significantly improved our operational efficiency by 25% within the first six months of implementation, but we also empowered our team by actively involving them in its development, providing a sense of ownership and accomplishment.

Empowerment and acknowledgment play crucial roles in fostering innovation. I make it a point to celebrate both successes and constructive failures. This means giving due credit for innovative attempts, even when they don’t achieve their primary objective, and examining what can be learned from the process. This attitude helps in cultivating an environment where innovation is not just encouraged but is seen as a valuable contribution to the company’s growth and success. The key takeaway here is that nurturing an innovative culture is less about individual initiatives and more about creating an ecosystem that supports and rewards creative thinking and problem-solving across the board.

Remon Elsayea, IT Consultant, Techtrone


Brainwave Sessions Drive Creative Culture

Fostering a culture of innovation must begin from the leadership and spread through every vein of the organization. My journey, notably with Profit Leap, has shown the profound impact of integrating innovation as a core company value. We instigated a tradition called “Brainwave Sessions”—informal, yet structured brainstorming meetings where employees across all levels bring forth their ideas, no matter how nascent or ambitious. This process nurtured an environment where creativity was not just encouraged but expected.

One specific example of how this initiative cultivated an innovative mindset was the development of HUXLEY, an AI business advisor chatbot. The idea for HUXLEY arose from a “Brainwave Session,” where a junior developer suggested leveraging AI to democratize business advice for our small business clientele. This led to the formation of a cross-departmental team dedicated to bringing this idea to fruition. Through iterative development and inclusive feedback loops, HUXLEY evolved into a cornerstone of our service offering, radically enhancing our value proposition and setting us apart in the market.

This experience underscored two crucial insights for me. Firstly, innovation thrives on diversity of thought—when people from varied backgrounds and expertise converge, the creative potential is unparalleled. Secondly, recognizing and acting upon these ideas swiftly can significantly impact market presence and client satisfaction. By fostering an environment where every team member feels empowered to suggest improvements, we’ve not only accelerated our growth but also cultivated a truly innovative culture that continually seeks to redefine the norm.

Victor Santoro, Founder and CEO, Profit Leap


Regular Brainstorming Sparks Innovation

Fostering a culture of innovation within a company should ideally start at the top. Leadership sets the tone and provides resources to support innovative initiatives. It is also crucial to encourage participation and ideas from all levels of the organization.

One initiative that successfully instilled an innovative mindset among my team was implementing regular brainstorming sessions. These sessions focused on problem-solving and idea generation. They provided a platform for team members to share their ideas freely, collaborate, and experiment with new approaches.

A supportive environment where creativity and risk-taking are encouraged will lead to new ideas and solutions. This initiative sparked a culture of innovation, which led to the development of novel products and processes that propelled the company forward.

Khunshan Ahmad, CEO, InsideTechWorld


Leadership Vision Fosters Creativity

To foster innovation in a company, start with leadership promoting a clear vision and openness to new ideas.

Encourage creativity, risk-taking, and experimentation among employees.

Provide time and resources for innovation, encourage collaboration across teams, and celebrate innovative successes.

Bring in outside perspectives and consistently reinforce the importance of innovation to weave it into the company’s culture.

Keith Ritchie, CEO, Prime Massage Chairs


Innovator of the Month Inspires Creativity

Fostering innovation begins by recognizing and rewarding innovative behaviors and outcomes. We implemented an “Innovator of the Month” award, celebrating individuals or teams who demonstrated creative problem-solving or introduced innovative solutions.

This recognition program motivated individuals to think outside the box and highlighted the diverse ways innovation can manifest within a company. Celebrating these successes publicly within the organization reinforced the value placed on innovation and inspired others to contribute their ideas, fostering a culture where innovation is recognized as a key driver of success.

Ian Sells, CEO, Million Dollar Sellers


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