Building a Culture of Innovation: The 12 Pillars

Filed Under Innovation

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Vanessa Reed

April 14, 2014

Are you familiar with the 12 Pillars of Innovation? Brian Solis, who’s worked with hundreds of startups and is the author of What’s the Future of Business, compiled a list of reoccurring traits that are all found in the world’s most successful and innovative companies. These include Google, Nike, Tesla, Virgin, and more. The 12 pillars represent cultural capstones that Solis has observed in these business monoliths, and has deemed effective tools for creating a culture of innovation in the workplace.

1. Articulate Vision and Inspire

According to Solis, “Organizations cannot move in a new direction unless that vision is conceived, articulated and motivating.” In other words, people need something to believe in and follow. Make sure that your organization clearly states its vision, and that it relates to the big picture — it’s necessary for success.

2. Form an Innovation Management Team

Solis states that, “Often, top executives need to band together to create alignment and build the infrastructure necessary to support a culture of innovation.” The innovation management team will be responsible for planning and implementing changes in the organization, which will facilitate growth and nurture a creative environment. They will be responsible for communicating and collaborating with key department heads to discover and develop best practices.

3. Promote Reverse Mentoring

Solis points to GE as an example of effective reverse mentoring. Reverse Mentoring fosters  understanding, creates mutual empathy and promotes collaboration between different generations of team members.

4. Optimize Decision Making

“Decision-making is a chokehold on corporate-creativity,” Solis has found. He recommends evaluating how to optimize decisions, as well as introduce paths for ideas to earn consideration, development, and expansion throughout the organization.

5. Invest in People and Processes

Solis aptly states that people are the core of an organization. Investing in the training, education, and the processes by which the employees performance is reviewed is key to a collaborative and creative environment.

6. Employ Technology as an Enabler

Organizations are often faced with the overwhelming amount of technology available to them for implementation. Rather than worrying that they will appear irrelevant if they do not implemented the newest technology trend, the greatest enterprises treat technology as an enabler of the greater vision, purpose, and bottom line business objectives.

7. Incentivize Ideas and Reward Risk

According to Solis, “The most innovative businesses take ideation further by instilling it in everyday job responsibilities and performance management (up and down). Everyone is expected to contribute and managers are expected to cultivate and consider ideas. At the same time, innovative companies find a way to reward risk.”

8. Teach Creative Thinking/Upside Down

Offsites, meetings, and events should inspire employees and leaders alike. Enterprises can teach creative thinking by giving employees time each week to learn something new, or develop a new concept outside of work.

9. Reward Contribution

The most successful enterprises reward employees who go above and beyond, recognize risk takers, and reward those who contribute every step of the way.

10. Foster Collaboration

Expand engagement beyond traditional work groups. Give employees a reason to convene and share ideas. Utilize enterprise social networks, social media, and collaboration tools to foster teamwork.

11. Fail Forward

The best companies communicate successes even in failures. Fear of failure creates risk aversion, leading to tired, uninspiring ideas. Encourage experimentation and learning to drive innovation.

12. Manage Accountability

Solis states that “In a culture of innovation, accountability is critical. It’s not just employees who are responsible for generating ideas and improving skills and expertise; managers too are measured by how well they cultivate ideas, spark imagination, and encourage collaboration.” Holding employees and managers to the same high standards helps companies move beyond just competing to becoming the industry standard.

Creating an innovative culture lends itself to success and relevancy of any company. It is not easy to build or maintain a great company. If it were, than everyone would already be doing it! The 12 pillars are effective tools for creating a culture of persistent innovation and disruption to help global enterprises stay ahead of the curve.