The 4 Key Ingredients Needed to Foster an Innovative Culture at Work

Have you ever wondered why your organisation just doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere when it comes to creating sustainable innovation practices? If so, maybe it’s time to step back and rethink your whole approach?

Innovation isn’t just something organisations can tick off the list of things they think they ‘should’ be doing to keep up with the latest trends. Like diversity, it needs far more than a token effort to fully understand and reap the benefits. For any organisation to survive in the modern era, innovation must seep through the very bones of its culture.

“Hiring a few talented individuals and hoping for the best, without changing anything about your organization, won’t cut it. Companies need a strategic plan for professionalizing and institutionalizing innovation across their organizations. This is the only way to nurture the breakthrough innovations needed for the future health of the business.”

(From The Myth of the Intrapreneur an article from the Harvard Business Review by Andrew Corbett)

This is ‘what’ organisations need to be doing. You probably know that. But, what you might not know is ‘how’ to do it effectively.

Dr Natalia Nikolova, senior lecturer in management at the University of Technology, Sydney Business School, has some answers for you. In her presentation, Intrapreneurship, Innovation and the Future of Work, part of Florence Guild’s speaker series, ’The Art of Focus’, Dr Nikolova outlined the 4 essential ingredients for creating a successful innovation culture within an organisation. In summary, they are:

  • Put innovation front and centre in your organisation’s mission and value statements and commit to it fully.
  • Put structures in place that support innovation and allow for ideas to flow freely across departments and levels of management.
  • Adopt specific processes that ensure ideas and experiments can follow a logical pathway to fruition. For example, follow a design thinking process and start by basing your next product on service on what your consumers need (as opposed to what you want them to buy). You’ll also need to put processes in place to finance innovative projects and to keep them flowing quickly.
  • Have the right people on board who are passionate about innovation and have a growth/innovation mindset. Also, have people whose job it is to make sure that innovative practices happen and that an innovative mindset is actively fostered.


Dr Nikolova also stressed that none of this will work unless everyone involved is open to trying new things and can handle an element of risk and uncertainty. With the rapid rate of change in all areas of life now, those who are willing to reinvent themselves will be the ones who will survive and advance.

This doesn’t just apply to our careers, it also applies to our mindset. We must be willing to accept that the way we do things now, might not be the best way to do things in 5-years’ time – or even in 2-years’ time. We need to constantly be on the lookout for better approaches, new technologies, and new insights.

In many workplaces, it’s the upper levels of management that have unintentionally become the roadblocks to effective innovation, mainly because they are structured along traditional lines. They don’t have enough diversity in skills and experience so they tend to all think the same way.

If this sounds like your organisation, then you may need to rethink your management structure and also look for employees who are doing things differently and get them involved in your decision-making processes. Once your leaders start approaching everything with an innovative mindset, you’ll find that opportunities will arise in all sorts of places – somewhere you least expect them.

The Florence Guild 2018 series narrative, ‘The Art of Focus’ is based on the premise that, in an information-dense society, our attention resources have become depleted. The series’ speakers will help us identify and explore the areas in our lives where we may need to regain focus, increase our self-awareness and improve how we interact with those around us.

If you’d like to hear more Dr Nikolova’s recorded conversation, Intrapreneurship, Innovation and the Future of Work, tune in to episode 26 of this podcast series. You’ll discover more tips on how you can foster a more innovative culture in your organisation plus hear some in-depth insights into how our educational institutions need to innovate in order to prepare students for tomorrow’s workplaces.

You might also like to hear Olga Cuesta’s presentation Significant, Scalable, Sustainable Innovation, episode 11 of our podcast series.

You can also keep up to date with conversations with other thought leaders by subscribing to our podcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio.

For more information on our collaborative spaces and speaker conversations in Sydney and Melbourne please click here or contact us.