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SO … You Say You Want a Culture of Innovation?. @ Idea Champions, 2003. …and you want to improve the climate in your company so it is more conducive to breakthrough thinking, collaboration, and the timely execution of new ideas?. Well, you’re in good company.

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…andyou want to improve the climate in your company so it is more conducive to breakthrough thinking, collaboration, and the timely execution of new ideas?
Well, you’re in good company.

Many business leaders, change agents, and managers want the exact same thing.

They know that the success of their enterprise is inextricably linked to corporate culture:

The “environment.”

The “atmosphere.”

The “vibe.”

The not-so-good news is that everyone wants the culture to change overnight.

Oops! No can do.

Cultures do not change overnight.

They don’t change overnight because they have taken a looooooong time to become what they are.

CULTURE: “The sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.”

Cultures do not change overnight.

But what can change overnight is the intention to change the culture ...and the commitment… and the strategy for effectively changing it.

If you really want to change your corporate culture, first consider the process a gardener goes through in order to get a significant yield.

The gardener doesn’t just plant seeds.

The gardener creates the conditions that allow the seeds to bear fruit by:

1. Staking the territory

2. Preparing the ground

3. Planting the seeds

4. Fencing the garden

5. Tending the garden

6. Cultivating new hybrids

7. Harvesting the crop

In other words, the committed gardener makes a sustained effort to create conditions that are optimally conducive to the appearance of an intended yield.
No quick fixes

No magic pills

No flavor of the month

No caffeine-inspired pep talks

No bumper sticker slogans

Corporate culture is all about human nature.

Well then, oh corporate change agent, what will it take to roll up your sleeves and get dirty?

Certainly, somebody must have figured out this “culture shift business” by now!

Some “innovation expert.” Some OD consultant.

Some process-oriented, best practice guru.

Some business savvy tooth fairy?

Well, we haven’t found them yet.

But what we have found are some powerful principles and guidelines based on our many years experience in this field.

So here goes…

On the following slides we offer you the best of what we’ve discovered about the art and science of creating a culture of innovation..


Some of these initiatives you may already be doing.

Some you may need to start doing.

The key is to pick a critical mass of these initiatives and begin.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

NOTE: To ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed by the following list of initiatives, be aware of these four points:

1. Leadership needs to get genuinely involved

2. The workforce needs to have meaningful input

3. The game plan needs to match company values

4. Key change agents need to take the long view.


20 Ways to Create a Sustainable Culture of Innovation

1. Establish a baseline by administering a “Culture of Innovation” survey to the workforce

2. Take Senior Leadership offsite to brainstorm their vision, strategy and commitment

3. Help Senior Leadership communicate their vision and commitment to the workforce

4. Offer “Leading Innovation” training to selected managers

5. Offer “Banking on Innovation” training to the general workforce

6. Create an “Innovation Intranet” that allows employees to brainstorm online, share best practices and stay inspired

7. Help your workforce form idea coaching partnerships

8. Make “Innovation Assurance” (weekly on-line creative thinking curriculum) available to everyone

9. Publicize innovation successes and best practices

10. Select a few inspired trainers or managers and get them certified to teach “Banking on Innovation.”

11. Redistribute the workload of your BOI-certified trainers so they are free to be “innovation coaches” as needed

12. Produce quarterly “Innovation Recognition” events

13. Administer post-training “Organizational Obstacles to Innovation” surveys at selected intervals.

14. Train committed managers to facilitate ideation sessions

15. Get groups together to brainstorm ways of diffusing organizational obstacles to innovation

16. Invite your workforce to complete a 360 innovation feedback survey on their managers.

17. Find ways of getting your certified “innovation coaches” to coach selected managers.

18. Review the end-of-year “Culture of Innovation Whitepaper” produced by Idea Champions and your certified “innovation coaches.”

19. Create a two-day offsite for Senior Leaders to review Year #1 progress and strategize improvements for Year #2.

20. Communicate the new strategy to the work force.

Can you still have an impact if you don’t commit to all 20 of our recommendations?

Of course you can.

But we want you to begin with the greatest chance of success… and that will require that you do more than just talk about the need or recycle what you’ve already done.

“Companies are actually living organisms, not machines. We keep bringing in mechanics – when what we need are gardeners.”– Peter Senge

The seed is planted.

If you want to take the next step towards creating a culture of innovation in your organization, contact Mitch Ditkoff (

“There is no such thing as a long piece of work except one that you dare not start.” – Charles Baudelaire