Encouraging a more innovative culture

by | Jul 7, 2020 | Effective Teams, Innovation

As organizations are navigating the COVID-19, many organizations are forced to adapt or face dire consequences. Leaders are asking, “How might we develop a more innovative culture?”

In a previous blog, I applied John Kotter’s change management process to crisis planning. The first step of his process is “Create a sense of urgency.” The pandemic has provided a “sense of urgency. Organizations can view this time as an opportunity to evaluate how they operate and determine how they will behave in the future. 

In The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle shares three skills of highly successful organizational cultures: (1) Build safety, (2) Share vulnerability, and (3) Establish purpose. Under each skill, I’ve included strategies for leaders to encourage innovation. 

Skill 1: Build safety

When we “build safety,” team members experience a sense of belonging. In addition, they feel psychologically safe to share new ideas without fear of judgement or repercussion.

“Build safety” innovation strategy #1: Google has studied the characteristics of effective teams, and the most important characteristic is psychological safety. One strategy they use to encourage psychological safety is to begin meetings with each team member sharing a recent risk they took. No judgement is passed on whether the risk taking led to a successful result.

“Build safety” innovation strategy #2: Our approach to facilitating creative problem solving includes divergent and convergent thinking. Instead of traditional meetings that invite evaluation after each new idea is shared, we encourage collecting all ideas while deferring judgement. After all ideas are collected, we then use convergent thinking to evaluate ideas and begin focusing our options. This approach fosters creative thinking and psychological safety. 

Skill 2: Share vulnerability

Team members who display vulnerability willingly share when they don’t know something and need help. They are willing to admit when they are wrong and encourage learning from mistakes. 

“Share vulnerability” innovation strategy #1 Similar to the Google strategy to foster psychological safety, I encourage teams to find opportunities for each team member to share something they want or need to learn in the near future. Team members can volunteer to impart knowledge to others who desire to learn more about a topic. 

“Share vulnerability” innovation strategy #2: When we suggest new ideas to our team members, we often feel compelled to “sell” the idea as a complete solution. I recommend developing a meeting environment that allows team members to present ideas as imperfect and incomplete. In this type of seeing, we can admit that our ideas are not perfect and solicit open and honest feedback from our team members. 

Skill 3: Establish purpose

Team members share a sense of shared purpose. They understand why their organization exists and have a shared vision for the future. 

“Establish purpose” innovation strategy #1: In recent years, Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action has emphasized the importance of determining our individual and organizational purpose (our “why”) before we identify our “how” and “what.” All employees can benefit from understanding their organization’s purpose and aligning their decisions with it. 

“Establish purpose” innovation strategy #2: Leaders need to articulate their organization’s purpose and intentionally discuss what that means and looks like. Leaders can highlight important decisions and recognize individuals who live out the organization’s purpose. 

Successful organizational cultures take time to develop. Leaders must intentionally work towards develop a company culture that fosters innovation. Organizations that are able to adapt and innovate during this pandemic will be much stronger in the long run than those who attempt to maintain the status quo.

How can we help your organization develop a more innovative culture? We provide creative problem solving training, leadership coaching, and strategic planning services. Contact us to learn more.


Coyle, D. (2018). The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Bantam Books.

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Portfolio.