41 Ways to Foster a Culture of Innovation

by Barry Gruenberg

41 Ways to Foster a Culture of InnovationYes, we know you want your organization to be more innovative. And yes, we know you want to improve your organization’s culture of innovation. The best place to start? With YOU.

  1. Give up needing to be the smartest person in the room.
  2. Seek out people who think differently than you do.
  3. Reward new thinking.
  4. When you delegate, delegate.
  5. Listen more, tell less.
  6. Create an environment where no idea is considered dumb.
  7. Be a learner, not a know-it-all.
  8. Require that 30% of all budget proposals include innovative products, processes, strategies, business models, or management approaches.
  9. Celebrate failures and learn from them.
  10. Don’t rush to resolve differences. Tolerate ambiguity while gaining a deep understanding of the thought processes underlying all positions.
  11. Surface conflict and support minority positions.
  12. Let go of your way of doing things.
  13. Explore the territory before seeking a destination.
  14. Reward people who disagree with you.
  15. Protect the new from the old.
  16. Get feedback to test whether what you think you communicated is what people actually heard.
  17. Do whatever is necessary to deeply engage employees in the realm of the possible.
  18. Do whatever is necessary to create widespread understanding and commitment to a shared vision of the future.
  19. Reward teamwork and unselfish effort — not individual heroics.
  20. Accept as much of yourself as you can.
  21. Recognize the talents of those around you and leverage them to the max.
  22. Pave the way for your subordinate’s success.
  23. Develop all your reports to be your successor.
  24. Provide very specific, timely, behavior-based positive feedback.
  25. Begin your feedback with what you like about a new idea.
  26. Make the path to considering, evaluating, and deciding on new ideas clear and easy to navigate.
  27. Look behind “wild ideas” for potential new directions.
  28. Never write anyone off. Try to understand where they are coming from before judging them.
  29. Don’t forget that everything you do is scrutinized for meaning.
  30. Spend at least 20% of your time in two-way communication with people at all levels of your organization — and spend most of this time listening, not explaining.
  31. Be intentional and deliberate. Be clear about what you are trying to achieve and test whether that is what you are getting.
  32. Stick your neck out for what you believe in and value.
  33. Acknowledge when you don’t know — and rely on others to help you figure it out.
  34. Give the work back. Your job is to get the best that everyone has to give — not come up with all the answers yourself.
  35. Eliminate fear from the workplace. Foster excitement and commitment.
  36. Acknowledge when you are wrong. Don’t defend yourself. Just learn from your mistakes.
  37. Engage others in the exploration of what is possible. (Don’t create unnecessary limits).
  38. Keep your organization in the zone of “productive disequilibrium.” Resist efforts to revert to the “tried and true.”
  39. Increase freedom and accountability. Let employees experiment with whatever approaches they think are worth exploring while remaining accountable for results. Let them own the “how.” You own the “what”.
  40. Provide timely feedback and data to everyone so they can identify what is working and what needs fixing.
  41. Remember that the only person you can change is yourself.


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Barry GruenbergBarry Gruenberg is a highly experienced speaker, consultant and facilitator whose current passion is helping leaders in turbulent and highly complex environments create a culture and a context in which they can realize the greatest potential in themselves, their co-workers and their organizations.

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  1. Excellent list ….

    I would also add

    Promote diversity of interests – I’m very interested in local industrial history in England and that generates a lot of ideas in other areas.

    Promote ownership – there’s nothing like running with your own idea.

    Promote enthusiasm – this is the one behaviour I value above all else in the workplace – with enthusiasm comes energy, energy to make it happen.

  2. Great list, thanks for sharing! #28 is a personal favorite and one of the more difficult ones to genuinely achieve, in my opinion.

    I’m interning for an innovation consulting firm and we posted a similar article that identifies the 5 Essentials of Innovation. Although there is no distinct road map that guarantees success innovation, most are a result of these guiding factors and many of them encompass the ones you listed above.

    Read our blog article here: https://bit.ly/cUU7Bn

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