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November 10, 2014 Blog 1 min read

One of the world’s greatest innovators, Walt Disney, once said: “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

It’s true — curiosity is the heart of innovation, but how do we encourage curiosity in the workplace? Our 2014 Innovation Report found that culture plays a pivotal role in inspiring innovation, but it doesn’t always translate to success. So, what are the elements of a successful innovation culture, and how do you spark curiosity?

Our survey revealed a group of elite innovators who have seen a 30% or more increase in revenue due to innovation. A common thread among these elite innovators was great cultural practices that promote innovation in the workplace. One of the key cultural elements is something we take very seriously here at Plante Moran: a collaborative work environment with open communication.

Innovation is fed by collaboration. With collaboration, new perspectives and ideas are presented and developed. Open work spaces, collaboration rooms, and an open-door policy are a few examples of a physical work environment, but open communication must be ingrained deeper into an organization’s culture. A nurturing, creative environment starts from the top with leadership support. It’s important to listen to your employees, listen to their ideas, and build a space of trust and openness that allows everyone to feel comfortable and encouraged to come forward with new ideas.

Finally, innovation sometimes comes with its share of risks. In his book Great by Choice, Jim Collins encourages organizations to shoot bullets first, then cannonballs. His point is to make sure the risks we take are calculated ones. We’ve tried a lot of different things over the years at Plante Moran. Some worked; others haven’t. But even the failures sometimes lead to future successes…because we learn from them and enter into the risks with appropriate research and caution.

Innovation is about taking these calculated risks and not being afraid to fail. But without the right cultural mix, the curiosity light can be extinguished. Is your culture a catalyst for innovation?

For more information on this topic, sign up for our Dec. 5 webinar, “Move over, Culture. Make Room for Innovation.” The webinar will feature leaders from Automatic Feed, Henry Ford Health System, and ThoughtWorks—three successfully innovative organizations from Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois—as they discuss innovation and the role of culture.