Three Ways to Grow a Culture of Innovation at Work

Like this on Facebook

When I was 10 years old, all I wanted was a skateboard. Because my parents refused to buy me one, I did what any resourceful 10 year-old would do – I asked my grandparents for one.

My Grandpop was a frugal guy – there was no way he’d run out to buy me one…what he did offer to do was build me one.

It wasn’t fancy. It was essentially a piece of plywood with some wheels screwed into the bottom but, after a few modifications, it worked and I learned to ride.

Growing up, there were always magic solutions that came from my grandfather’s workshop in the basement. He could fix anything and build anything.

When I think about innovation, I think about him – always ready with a creative idea or solution, not afraid to make a mistake, and never giving up.

 Innovation is NOT…

…a ping pong table in the office.

…a nap room.

…a special program launched by the HR team.

Innovation is a culture. A culture of risk takers, idea generators, and simplifiers. People who don’t give up, and who speak up…. in an environment built on trust.

Cultures aren’t born, they’re made. And with anything we make, it takes time and focus.

Here are three small ways that you can grow a culture of innovation – and you don’t have to be the CEO to do so.

1. Find Your Leaders.

Culture starts with leadership and leaders set the tone. They tell us the vision and priorities, they tell us what’s important and what to focus on. They also make or break whether or not the work environment is open and built on trust through their transparency and authenticity. This is so important if we want innovation to grow.

On my first day at SAP over 11 years ago I had the privilege of seeing our (at that time) CEO of SAP America, Bill McDermott, making his rounds in the office. He’d stop at each floor and a crowd of employees would gather to hear Bill’s thoughts and to ask questions.  Bill was inspiring – not only setting a vision, but also calling people out by name and being authentic. What he said to me and other employees, through actions not words, was that he was open and eager for us to have an impact…laying the groundwork for innovation.

What you can do –

Not every organization has a leader as dynamic as Bill.

Find those great leaders – the ones who listen, who champion ideas, and inspire their teams. They will likely be a few layers down from the top. Give them a platform to reach other employees outside of their teams. Have a Q&A session with them.  It will go a long way in building trust in your culture.

2. Speak Up!

The most innovative companies know that the best ideas start with a diverse team…bringing together people from many backgrounds, with different experiences to make amazing things happen.

But the magic really happens when those diverse teams feel empowered– to be themselves, to speak up, to share ideas.

Culture of innovation can’t just be top-down.  While our leaders set the tone – it’s the people who bring a culture to life within an organization.

What you can do –

Have you ever been in a meeting with someone who sits quietly and doesn’t say much? Call them out and gently ask for their view. Sometimes the best ideas and thoughts are hidden inside people who might not be as comfortable sharing. And don’t be afraid to share your own ideas.

Get feedback from people who are different that you. If you only talk to people who are just like you, your solutions are only as good as your strongest idea.

3. Be Fearless.

If we want innovation, we must take risks. If we take risks, there will be failures. We’ve got to remove fear that exists about failure and make failure seen as a lesson and a gift.

Not only must employees be willing to be themselves and share their ideas, they have to be comfortable taking risks and (at times) failing.

What you can do –

Recognize and role model the behaviors you want to encourage in your organization. Have your leaders share a story about a personal failure and what they learned. On a team call, recognize someone who took a risk that might not have worked out as planned.

Get back up if you fail. Force yourself to see the learning instead of the result.

One more thing…

Don’t let your years of work experience or your last project define your value and worth. Everyone has something to share and something to learn so be bold and be yourself.

And just maybe – you will inspire someone with your innovation, just like my grandfather did for me.

This blog is based on a speech for the Villanova University Graduate Human Resources Development Program.

Originally posted on Lead with Intuition.

Liz Brenner

Liz Brenner is currently Vice President of Marketing Employee Engagement at SAP. Liz has spent over 8 years in various marketing and operations roles at SAP. Prior to SAP, Liz spent over 10 years in consulting and operations roles at BearingPoint, Arthur Andersen, and in the energy industry. Liz’s blog, Lead With Intuition, is a compilation of inspiring lessons from top business leaders to empower you in your pursuit of success. Follow @LizBrenner on Twitter.

Recommended

Ask an Exec: Dealing with Difficult Conversations at Work

Did you notice? The title of this article is not “Dealing with difficult people” but, instead, it’s about “difficult conversations”. Don’t think there’s a difference? ...

Trying Is Always Worth It

“Who can tell me why it’s important to do CPR?” My fellow students and I at the CPR training class stared back at the instructor ...

Leaderly Quote: It's not too late...

"It's not too late to do something kind, creative, generous, satisfying and courageous. Today. " — Alexandra Franzen....

Ready to lead?

We'll show you how!
Get email updates from Be Leaderly.

Our mission is to provide the career strategies that help you lead, climb and thrive as a rising woman of influence.

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

15 Songs for Your Leadership Playlist

It was one of those conference moments I’ll never forget: Carly Fiorina had ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

6 Critical Missteps That Hurt Your Career Advancement

Let’s face it: it isn’t easy to break out and establish yourself as ...

4 Characteristics of Leaders Who Get Hired and Promoted

Imagine if you had the opportunity to sit down with a senior executive ...

Nine Qualities of Female Leaders Who Get Beyond the Glass Ceiling

I’m frequently asked to speak about women in law and specifically the issue ...

5 Things Women Leaders Should Stop Doing. TODAY.

Over the last couple years, I’ve had a front row seat to career ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

8 Types of Courage for Aspiring Leaders

“The truth is that courage resides within you; you must simply decide to ...

How to Manage Former Peers

Let’s talk about a potentially awkward situation. You get a new role and ...

Public speaking tips for introverts. (Like me.)
Public speaking tips for introverts. (Like me.)

It was just an ordinary Tuesday. I woke up, made a strong pot of coffee,

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Roderick Wilson
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Roderick Wilson

This month we shine the Emerging Leader Spotlight on Roderick Wilson, Senior Vice President Market

Leaderly Quote: Strip away the drama from your leadership style…
Leaderly Quote: Strip away the drama from your leadership style…

Need to have a “tough love” conversation with someone at work? Stay calm, stick to

The Number One Way to Make a Difficult Conversation Easier
The Number One Way to Make a Difficult Conversation Easier

Need to have a difficult conversation with an employee, peer, or supervisor at work? Whether

Leaderly Quote: The best way to become who you’re destined to be…
Leaderly Quote: The best way to become who you’re destined to be…

“The best way to become who you’re destined to be is to accept who you

The Top 5 Most-Read Articles This Month
The Top 5 Most-Read Articles This Month

Here they are! The most-viewed Be Leaderly articles for the past month. 1. 25 Questions

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Christina Lewis
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Christina Lewis

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing

Six Ways to Attract and Hire Women in Male-Dominated Industries
Six Ways to Attract and Hire Women in Male-Dominated Industries

Current news stories make it sound like it’s impossible to attract women to high-tech jobs.

Leaderly Quote: There’s something inside you that is stronger…
Leaderly Quote: There’s something inside you that is stronger…

“It’s impossible to please everybody,” writes Alexandra Franzen in her article, You’re Going to be

You Can Make Excuses or You Can Make Progress
You Can Make Excuses or You Can Make Progress

The other day, I hopped in a cab. The driver and I started chatting, as

3 Rules for Rule-Breakers
3 Rules for Rule-Breakers

“You can’t leave your career when you’re at your height—it will derail you.” That was

Leaderly Quote: Everyone needs a few influential advocates.
Leaderly Quote: Everyone needs a few influential advocates.

Everyone needs a few influential advocates. It’s not an exaggeration to say that with one

Top 5 Most-Read Articles This Month
Top 5 Most-Read Articles This Month

Here’s what other emerging leaders have been reading at BeLeaderly.com this month. Do you like

4 Corporate Culture Questions to Ask in a Job Interview
4 Corporate Culture Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

You’ve made it to the final round job interview, and are starting to feel hopeful.

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Subscribe

captcha

PRIVACY

We will never share, rent, or sell your personal information or email address.
Copyright 2017, Be Leaderly