• Jeff Doolittle

How to Cultivate an Innovation Culture



Companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft invest billions annually into innovation. In 2020 Amazon spent $42.7 billion on “technology and content,” aka research and development. Organizations are looking to innovation to fuel growth. In a global survey by McKinsey & Company, 84% of executives emphasized the importance of innovation. However, this same survey found that 94% of executives are not satisfied with their organization's innovation performance. As the world changes, people and organizations must change too. Culture is the one thing that impacts everything, and successful innovation is a catalyst for organizational growth. Leaders looking to maximize innovation investments need to cultivate an innovation culture.


Organizational culture defined is "a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems." Edgar Schein

Leading Culture Change


Executives attempting to change their organizational culture should proceed cautiously and recognize that culture change is a perpetual endeavor. Corporate culture is oriented around:

  • Visual structures and processes

  • Spoken goals, strategies, and values

  • Taken-for-granted perceptions


Changing culture starts by clearly defining the desired goal in terms of employee behavioral expectations. Next, leaders need to align these behavioral expectations with:

  1. What they pay attention to regularly. If the goal is a culture of innovation, does leadership ask employees about innovation in meetings?

  2. How they respond in a time of crisis. When a problem arises, does leadership ask about how innovation can be a part of the solution?

  3. Where they allocate resources. When budgets are created, is there a line item for innovation?

  4. What they reward. Are employees rewarded for interesting failures and innovation success?

  5. How they buy, build, and bounce employees. When opportunities exist to hire, develop, and exit employees is innovation a part of the decision process?


Attributes of an Innovation Culture