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How to create positive innovation culture

The innovation team has been recruited and innovation management established. But it's not going so well? This is how you foster a positive culture of innovation. 

A culture of innovation is a corporate culture that promotes innovation.

Definition of organizational and corporate culture

To delve into the realm of innovation culture, it is imperative to explore the concept of organizational or corporate culture.

Organizational culture is the essence of an organization, encompassing its values, attitudes, and norms that shape the decisions and behaviors of its members. It is a complex entity, with many elements that are often hidden and unconscious. Organizational culture evolves over time, requiring a systematic and enduring approach to bring about targeted change.

Innovation culture as the foundation of innovation success

An innovation culture is therefore a corporate culture that promotes innovation. In practice, it means a positive attitude of the employees to the innovation where

  • All bring in,
  • Ideas and
  • All jointly promote and support innovation.

Therefore, innovation culture should also be the top priority in innovation management, as it is the foundation of any successful innovation activity.

If there is no profound innovation culture, innovations are only poorly and heartlessly supported and are thus doomed to failure. Because innovations have two basic problems in an organization:

  • Firstly, they are always challenges for an organization, because they are associated with risks and changes and can cause resistance, albeit unintentionally.
  • Secondly, innovation is the enemy of day-to-day business. Innovations claim resources that can not be invested in today's money earning.

These facts demonstrate that the success of an innovation depends on the behavior of employees. With a positive innovation culture these problems can be made up for and the way is free for the successful innovations.

Elements of an innovation culture



"If you want to build a ship, do not drum up men to gather wood, assign tasks, and divide the work, but teach the men the longing for the vast, endless sea."

This quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery perfectly captures the essence of innovation culture. It emphasizes that innovation cannot be forced or commanded, but rather, it must be lived and fostered within an organization.

In order to cultivate a thriving innovation culture, certain values and framework conditions must be in place. Firstly, there should be a high value placed on innovation and creativity. This means that organizations should encourage and reward employees for their innovative ideas and contributions. Additionally, there should be an openness to something new and a celebration of heterogeneity. Embracing diverse perspectives and ideas can lead to more innovative solutions.

Trust in employees is also crucial for fostering an innovation culture. When employees feel trusted and empowered, they are more likely to take risks and think outside the box. This requires providing them with free space and personal responsibility, allowing them to explore new ideas and take ownership of their work.

Risky optimism and a positive outlook are important aspects of an innovation culture. Embracing calculated risks and having an optimistic mindset can encourage employees to explore new possibilities and overcome challenges. Tolerance against errors is also essential, as it allows employees to learn from their mistakes and iterate on their ideas.

Incentives can play a significant role in promoting innovation within an organization. This can include rewards, recognition, and career advancement opportunities for those who contribute to innovative initiatives. Access to information and unlimited communication are also crucial, as they enable employees to stay informed and collaborate effectively.

Innovative structures, such as flat hierarchies, quick decision-making processes, and flexible rules, can create an environment that fosters innovation. By removing bureaucratic barriers and encouraging collaboration, organizations can empower employees to bring their ideas to life.

Finally, a team-focused and networking-oriented culture is key for innovation success. When employees are encouraged to collaborate and share their ideas, it can lead to the development of more innovative solutions. By fostering a sense of teamwork and creating opportunities for networking, organizations can tap into the collective intelligence of their workforce.

Resources for innovation

It is not enough to define these values and framework conditions and to put them on paper. They must be anchored in every head and be lived. This happens by actively shaping an innovation culture.

Creation of an innovation culture

There are many levers for shaping an innovative culture. The entire keyboard must be mastered and all measures must work hand in hand in order to achieve the desired innovation culture.

  1. Common orientation
    The basis is the what - what behavior does one wish for and is relevant to the success of the company? For all, it must be clear what the goal, the way and the expectation is. This is achieved through an innovation vision and innovation strategy.
    • The goals, rules, values and expectations are clearly defined and motivated.
    • Strong commitment and responsibility from the top to the bottom.
    • All activities must be aligned and contribute to the strategy.
  2. Understanding & Competence
    All employees need the understanding and competence for innovation, which is achieved through training and information initiatives on strategy, expectations, processes and tools.
  3. Life
    Leadership and leadership play a very important role, as it has to live through the values and take the necessary measures. The innovation values must be reflected in the management work, for example, that the boss makes sufficient resources available for innovations.
  4. Do
    Doing is the responsibility of all. The above-described values and framework conditions must be encouraged and demanded by the employees and above all by the management. This includes targeted measures, such as an incentive system, communication to innovation or engagement in projects.

Intrapreneurship - entrepreneurs instead of just employees

Employees are supposed to act as if they were the entrepreneurs themselves. And this is also a key prerequisite for innovation, which is called Intrapreneurship and stands for Intracorporate Entrepreneur:

Employees bring their own initiative and commitment to their entrepreneurial talents, their knowledge, their creativity and their wealth of ideas, and drive independent entrepreneurial innovations to success regardless of which department or position they belong to.

Driving intrapreneurship means that employees have great ideas and follow. This requires not only committed employees, but also a culture and framework conditions on the part of the company, that these employees can and should be allowed to develop. Therefore, the promotion of intrapreneurship is also part of the innovation culture work. Innovative culture eats strategy

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast" is a legendary saying by Peter F. Drucker. If culture is not a strategy, any effort in this direction is futile. If, for example, a company is to take the lead in innovation, but does not provide resources for radical innovations and does not allow risks and mistakes, the goals will never be achieved. The strategy must be adapted to the culture or the culture has to be changed so that it fits into the strategy and favors it.

Innovation is a mentality

"From today, we are innovative." This command does not work, because innovation can not be ordered or prescribed. Innovation is an attitude, a mentality in the workforce and can only be developed for years. Therefore the focus on the soft factors of an organization is the degree of innovation success.

Conclusion: how to create positive innovation culture


To work on the culture of a company requires sensitivity. Take a close look at the actual situation at the beginning. Only then can you identify the tweaks for a change in the culture of innovation. You can read how we at Lead Innovation go about encouraging a culture of innovation here


Daniel Zapfl

With his comprehensive experience in holistic innovation management, Daniel brings valuable insights and best practices from various industries to your innovation project. He boldly and disruptively challenges conventional ways of thinking. As a TRIZ-certified sparring partner, Daniel will support you with creative solution-finding in a reliable and structured manner. More critical than the most discerning customer, he always has an eye on the big picture.

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