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Diversity is needed to drive a culture of innovation

April 22, 2021   By Susan Rylance

Earlier this week, we had a conversation with a Fortune 50 healthcare company that is looking to be the leader of innovation in their industry. The head of HR shared that in order to be a leader in their industry, they need to have a culture of innovation in order to attract top talent. As an executive recruiter who helps companies attract and retain top innovation talent, this was music to my ears!

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast, what the heck does that mean, and does culture really supersede strategy in an organization? Yes, culture can supersede strategy. The phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, famously said by Peter Drucker, that all things being equal, having a great culture is more important than having a great strategy.

Creating a culture of innovation is easier said than done

Creating a culture that attracts AND retains top talent takes work, time, and commitment from the top leaders within the organization. 

So, how do you determine whether you have a good culture that is driving innovation and results? First, look at your mission statement and values. Are you leading with them and holding you and your team accountable in everything that you do to live up to the vision, mission, and values?

An example of companies who lead the pack in culture by living out their mission and values include; REI, Patagonia, Netflix, Starbucks & Google.

As you’re creating your culture based on values and mission, don’t forget to think about diversity within your workforce, which creates different ways of thinking and brings innovation. If you’re not careful, you can create a “monoculture” inadvertently, which can stifle innovation in your organization.  You also jeopardize the reach of your products and services to a narrowed target audience, one that looks and thinks like your employee base. 

If you’re committed to a culture that drives innovation, look at your current culture and employee base and assess whether it truly is a diverse pool of talent. Ask yourself; “do we invite different ways of thinking or do we tend to hire people that are like us with the same views because it’s more comfortable.   

At Fahren, we often have conversations about innovative cultures, given our space and expertise in the digital transformation world. Being innovative means bringing in different views and challenging ourselves to think and work differently. If you’re ready and committed to an innovative culture here are some tips on creating an innovative culture.

5 Tips on creating an innovative culture

  • Commit a certain percent of your employees’ time to generate ideas and innovate.  Create scheduled time and don’t allow other, “more important,” meetings to take this time over. A good rule of thumb is 5-10% of their time should be spent ideating.
  • Reward employee behaviors when they are displaying the mindset and taking the time out of their day to ideate.
  • Create an environment that encourages different ways of thinking.  This can be a specific space in your company, off-site space, or home office.
  • Accept failure as part of the innovation process.  If you’re not failing, at least in small measures, you’re not innovating and pushing enough new ideas. 
  • Create cross-functional team collaboration that allows for thinking outside of your world.  Bring someone in from different departments such as; finance, product, marketing, sales, operations, and HR that will broaden your thinking and bring a different perspective. 

Saying your an innovative culture will certainly attract talent, but if you don’t live it out and reward the behaviors, you’ll have a hard time retaining top talent.

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