On December 5, Plante Moran held a webinar to discuss the link between innovation and culture. Although we briefly summarized the results of our 2014 Innovation Report, most of the webinar focused on how to create a culture of innovation and actionable tips to help organizations become more innovative, courtesy of our three panelists: Xiao Guo, CEO of ThoughtWorks, Nancy Schlichting, CEO of Henry Ford Health System; and Nathan Weaks, CFO of Automatic Feed.
It was a fascinating discussion. Topics included innovative practices that spur innovation, whether or not to reward innovation, and how to make innovation part of a business’s cultural DNA. Here are a few of the key takeaways:
- From Nancy: The most important word in a leader’s vocabulary is “yes.” When you say “yes”—even if you don’t think it will work—you’re giving people permission to explore and create new ideas. And if an idea doesn’t work, often the lesson is invaluable and leads to other ideas that do.
- From Nathan: Invest in new ideas when things are going well. Nathan’s story was interesting in that his company underwent a complete cultural shift due to the 2009 recession. When that hit, sales plummeted, and the company was forced to innovate or collapse. Nathan and his team came up with new products related to the company’s core competency but also new ideas that were completely unrelated to what they used to do. Today, Nathan says, the company is no longer content with incremental improvements but takes calculated risks to continue to evolve.
- From Xiao: Focus on becoming generalists versus specialists. This may seem contrary to conventional wisdom, but Xiao said that his best thinkers are broad thinkers. He encourages his staff to change roles and business verticals often to gain different perspectives than result in innovative solutions. For ThoughtWorks, success means a broader set of experiences and skillsets.
These are just a few of the ideas shared during our 60-minute webinar. Some may work for your organization; others may not. Still, it’s nice to hear how others have been successful. If you’re interested in becoming more innovative — and who isn’t these days? — I highly recommend you check it out >>