Startups and tech companies are constantly seeking new ways to stay ahead of the competition and drive growth. Encouraging innovation can be one of the most impactful company core values to instill into your company culture.
Innovation drives progress and enables organizations to adapt to rapidly changing market dynamics. It leads to the development of groundbreaking products, services, and solutions that can capture new markets and delight customers. A culture of innovation can also attract top talent, as creative individuals are often drawn to companies that value fresh ideas and problem-solving. By fostering a culture of innovation, you position your company to not only survive but to thrive and lead in your industry.
In this article, we’ll share insights from leaders in the Powderkeg community about how to create a company culture that not only encourages but thrives on innovation.
1. Build trust through one-on-one connection
“Your people won’t take risks at work if they don’t feel safe. And they won’t feel safe if they don’t have trust. They need to trust that they won’t be personally judged and their team and manager will have their back if their idea doesn’t work. This type of trust is only created through meaningful connections and relationship-building with people over time. One-on-one connection, especially between managers and their team members, is the secret sauce to creating a culture of innovation.”
Kye Hawkins, Leadership Consultant and EQ Coach at ADVISA
2. The CEO sets the example
“Ensure the CEO demonstrates both expectations in how they think, talk, act, and how they treat others who do the same. Innovation and risk-taking lead to mostly failures each day. How tolerant is your CEO with innovation and risk taking when they consistently don’t pan out? Do they keep their nerve and stay the course, or do they get conservative and draw back on both to ensure the optics look right for the board of directors or shareholders?”
BJ McKay, Sr. Leadership Consultant at ADVISA
3. Celebrate and learn from failure
“One key tip for fostering a company culture that encourages innovation and empowers team members to take risks is to celebrate and learn from failure. Create an environment where mistakes are viewed as valuable learning opportunities rather than setbacks. When team members see that experimenting and taking calculated risks is not only accepted but also appreciated, they’ll be more inclined to think creatively and push boundaries, ultimately driving innovation within the organization.”
Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO & Co-Founder at Casted
4. Separate ego from ideas
“At Glassboard we strive to promote a culture of separating ego from ideas. When developing new products from scratch there are 100s if not 1000s of ideas that are somewhere on a scale from terrible to questionable that have to be presented to lead to that one good idea that solves the problem in a creative and innovative way. Due to this we openly debate all ideas and don’t judge the person, only each idea on merit. We commonly call this “knife fighting” to ensure each idea is debated on merit.”
Grant Chapman, CEO at Glassboard
5. Encourage collaboration, not judgment
“You must allow people to fail without punishment. If you build fear around failure, your team won’t take risks. You also need to encourage collaboration and not judgment. It shows that you’re willing to consider options and improve upon them. The faster you come in with criticism, the faster innovation will die.”
Hayley Cazares, Marketing Director at Groundwork
6. Foster an environment of psychological safety
“The key is to foster an environment of psychological safety. This means promoting open communication, encouraging constructive feedback, and providing opportunities for experimentation. Additionally, leaders must model vulnerability by admitting mistakes and taking ownership of failures. Investing in employee growth and development, promoting diversity and inclusion, and celebrating successes can also promote a culture of innovation.”
Emily Finkelstein, CEO at VentureXpert Advisors
7. Embrace an abundance mindset
“When I created Engineered Innovation Group, I drafted our core values first. Abundance is there because I believe that the world is full of opportunities, and even failures are opportunities. Our job is to identify the opportunities and leverage them to make a positive impact.”
Jake Miller, Founder & CEO at The Engineered Innovation Group
8. Share examples of innovative companies that have succeeded
“Nemedic was founded at the end of 2017 and for 3 years we had massive problems in our meetings, and our culture. Our growth suffered as a result. Everything improved when we transitioned to impactful weekly meetings. The medicine I used to right the ship was to spend 10 minutes at the beginning of the team meeting presenting a company (there are hundreds) that was innovative, encouraged risk and succeeded during tough times. I followed that up with a defined plan on how we would do the same.”
Brad Bichey, CEO at Nemedic
9. Host a weekly session to share failures
“Every Friday, we hold a ‘Friday Fails’ session where we discuss our missteps from the week. It highlights the risks we’ve taken and reminds everyone that it’s okay to be imperfect; we’re all human.”
Travis Hall, VP Marketing at Remodel Health
10. Don’t make a big deal about mistakes
“Make light of the mistakes and failures. We had a new team member push a breaking change out at 5pm on a Friday. Rookie mistake, but it happens. It didn’t affect all customers and hardly anyone noticed. We just said, ‘Hey, lesson learned. Be more careful next time.'”
Rick McGlinchey, Co-Founder at PureInsights
11. Be vulnerable
“Be vulnerable, and walk that talk every day. I start team meetings with a personal check-in — ‘How are you doing?’ — and use a traffic-light framework for answers. Green? I’m great! Red? Not so hot. Lead by example and answer here to reflect the whole you — not just work, not just personal; after all, this isn’t an episode of Severance. This vulnerability makes people feel respected for who (and how) they are, and those people will feel safe enough to take risks in the name of progress.”
Joseph Loria, Founder at RetentionworCX
Creating a company culture that encourages innovation is a multifaceted process that starts with leadership and permeates throughout the organization. By leading by example, promoting risk-taking, and nurturing a culture of learning and collaboration, you can set your tech company or startup on the path to innovation success. Remember that innovation is not a one-time event but an ongoing journey, and with the right culture in place, your organization can thrive in the ever-evolving tech landscape.
We hope these insights will help you encourage innovation at your company.
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