We all aspire to a culture of innovation that steadily differentiates us from our competitive set. We understand that such a culture can deliver value in every function of the enterprise, from leader-thinking to new offerings, from employee engagement to Lean initiatives, from brand equity to anything in the triple-bottom-line.

Any sophisticated approach to building a sustained innovation culture must see effort in four main areas: People, Process, Policy and Climate.

Most Chief Innovation Officers are understood by the rest of the enterprise to have a responsibility to drive new offering creation. What typically becomes obvious to newly incumbent CINOs however, is that their field of play must be much broader. New offering pipelines exist in a larger ecosystem of organizational priorities, thought habits and political competition. In order to build the legacy of sustained success with innovation, the typical CINO reaches a point where they understand their role is potentially less about new offering and more about Organizational Design and Development. Less about finding new ideas and more about building a culture. Some recoil from this understanding and hang their reputation on a robust pipeline driven by their force of personality. Others decide to go for the bigger win. And when they do, they impact the lives of everyone involved far beyond simple profitability. They raise and shorten the inevitable valleys caused by market fluctuation. This article is for those aspiring to be the second group.

 You cannot build a sustained innovation culture without also achieving a big win for the “outside of work” lives of employees in their families, communities and discretionary affiliations.

Any sophisticated approach to building sustained innovation culture must see effort in four main areas: People, Process, Policy, and Climate. Within each of those foci, there are three strategic action areas. 12 in total. Skip effort in one, and we’ll tell you multiple sad stories of how this skip ends up putting a hole below the waterline of any organizational ship. We’ll give you details about each.

A note about confirmation bias. Be careful. Our nature is to look for validation more readily than we seek critical feedback. Pay attention to patterns of thought that seduce you into “We’re doing that!” Think instead, “How might we not be doing that as well as we could?” When doing our organizational assessments, we start with the senior-most person who feels responsible for inspiring, building or sustaining innovation culture. Most of the time, there are things they feel are well handled by current effort, yet most others in the organization say are not. A little humility goes a long way here. Triple-bottom-line move. Please take it.

So there you have it. Four categories of must-do strategic actions. Yes, we offer assessment, consultation, and training about this. Just reach out. In any case, our world can really benefit as more and more commercial enterprises build the systems that energize the culture we’ve described. It’s the ultimate triple-bottom-line move. Please take it.

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Our book, Demystifying Innovation Culture Efforts, provides a comprehensive look into the four key dimensions (People, Process, Policy, and Climate) that will successfully convert disjointed efforts into a systematic, powerful force.  

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