Hello Leader,

Are you prepared for success?

All leading companies face a stark choice: either try to catch up with change, or lead the change. Leadership is not certain. In fact, more often than not, leadership is fleeting. Kodak, Blackberry and Nokia are three recent examples.

If your organization is not innovating and creating the trend that shapes the environment, you play catch-up and struggle to cope with the side effects of changes created and led by your competitors. If you are not leading the next disruptive innovation, chances are that your organization will be the one left behind.

In this KEY you will find the 20 characteristics of the Innovation Culture. Many of these characteristics can be observed in the strategic innovation of leading companies. Please forward this KEY to friends, family and associates.

Join my workshop at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute.


Aviv Shahar

Innovation Culture Makes Innovative People

The jury is in. Behavioral predispositions are not as predictive of innovation breakthrough as are the environment, the culture and what's celebrated by the organization. You need your best inventors and most creative people working on your greatest opportunities. But even more critical are the environment and the innovation culture you cultivate.

I've recently had the privilege of working on a strategic innovation project with a team of brilliant and creative individuals. They can easily be described as the Olympic champions of innovation in their field. Each was brilliantly creative in his or her own unique way.

Here is the point. We all have behavioral dispositions toward competence or leadership, but they may not indicate who will surface first with the next breakthrough idea. Innovators come in all shapes, styles and forms. In this team of innovation champions, there were introverts and extroverts; soft-spoken people and loud impossible-to-ignore speakers; reclusive and conversationalist innovators. I am convinced that you can find innovators with all thinking styles and behavioral dispositions.

What the research shows is that the environment, the process design and the nurturing of open access promote creativity, exploration and innovation.

In the Zone
Great teams encourage and stimulate innovation. If you have had the experience of working and collaborating with a team "in the zone" and "with the flow," you know there is nothing else like it. Simply put, it makes us all greater than we are each on our own. The engagement stimulates the best in us. We enjoy the adventure of creating and contributing together, and the process energizes us to rally to the task.

Peak "in-the-zone" experiences of working with an energized team leave an indelible memory and knowledge of how innovative, resourceful and capable we can be, even in the face of challenges and setbacks, not to mention opportunities.

A powerful team that cultivates a culture of innovation can be the difference between being in or out of business.

Culture of Innovation - An Anatomy
Here are 20 characteristics of an innovation culture. You can use these to evaluate your organization. Assess these 20 behaviors to identify strengths and opportunity gaps in the innovation culture as it applies to your organization. Rate each of the statements below on the scale from (1) to (5) - (5) representing "very much so" or "always" and (1) representing "hardly" or "never".

You also can ask your team members to score the list and use it to promote a conversation. The statements below represent an ideal situation. They are deliberately written generically. Do not be put off by this. It is meant to offer opportunity for evaluation against an idealized situation of best-in-class innovation teams.

The Innovation Culture Characteristics:

  1. Passion - We are passionate about solving problems.
  2. Discipline - We follow a disciplined process to harness creativity.
  3. Risk taking - We go beyond the comfort zone, take risks and step up to new opportunities and challenges.
  4. Humor - We enjoy surprises, playfulness and a good laugh.
  5. Diversity - We include diverse disciplines, talents and viewpoints.
  6. Curiosity - We actively explore our environment, venture into other fields and probe new possibilities.
  7. Collaboration - We cultivate open communication, synergy and collaboration.
  8. Courage - We challenge the status quo and are ready to challenge assumptions and question authority.
  9. Trust - We cultivate mutual trust and respect.
  10. Beauty - We are fanatical about design, elegance and beauty.
  11. Prototyping - We quickly translate ideas into prototypes to learn and to iterate.
  12. Boldness & Humility - We encourage each other to be free of the good opinion of others with boldness, humility and honesty.
  13. Sticking-to-itness - We persevere, follow through with tenacity and execute to get results.
  14. Inspiration - We honor the sense of awe and wonder, and encourage new ideas and inspiration.
  15. Resilience - We celebrate the learning that failures bring and turn setbacks into bouncing-forward opportunities.
  16. Big Dreams - We promote big, audacious scenarios and see possibilities within the seemingly impossible.
  17. Kaleidoscoping - We make new connections, recognize patterns and relationships and identify organizing principles.
  18. Empowered - We are empowered to make things happen.

You can evaluate your team and get your innovation score.

Here are a few questions for reflection when you debrief your score and in your conversations with your team:

  1. Which of the characteristics above got the highest score? What can we learn from these?
  2. Where are the lowest scores? What can we learn from these?
  3. If these 20 innovation culture behaviors are muscles, which three muscles do you need to exercise and strengthen this month to take your culture of innovation to the next level?

Revisit the 20 characteristics and behaviors regularly to identify improvement and development opportunities and to unleash the innovation power of your organization.

Now it's your turn. Turn the key. Cultivate the innovation culture. Unleash the innovative power of your team. Build new futures for you and your clients.

© Aviv Shahar