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The culture of innovation: Leadership lessons

September 24, 2015

Vinod Kumar   

Blog contributor

In the run-up to the United Nations Solutions Summit, a longer-term grassroots effort to lift-up exceptional innovators developing solutions that address one or more of the 17 sustainable development goals, I have been reflecting on the role culture plays in driving innovation – in the context of leadership.

I believe that technology is one of the greatest catalysts of change in the modern world – where technological breakthroughs offer innovative solutions to the most pressing global challenges of today. From zero-emission engines to the Internet of ‘smart’ everythings, these emerging technologies offer a glimpse into the possibility of transformation across industries, for everyday life & for the planet.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a phrase I often refer to and one that I believe sums up the magic ingredient that can make all the difference in a success or failure. Take innovation for example, setting up a strategy for innovation is easy enough, but ultimately it is people who innovate. Everyday people at the heart of extraordinary ideas.

With this in mind, it is important to remember to continuously reflect and challenge ourselves: how can culture drive successful innovation – and what, specifically, leaders can do to influence the kind of culture that leads to behaviour that’s truly innovative.

I recently spent time exploring this thought with a group of peers, from all different walks of life. We all agreed – both in terms of the importance of innovation to evolving the modern world and more importantly the four elements that we believe form the core of a culture of innovation:

  1. Innovation is diversity: bring people from the outside into your innovation process.
  2. Innovation is a state of mind not a budget
  3. Innovation is driven by inspired leadership
  4. Innovation is being brave, adaptable, resilient and curious

Without a doubt, the breadth and velocity of technological innovation appears equally inspiring and empowering as well as disruptive. The challenge for leaders today is to arrive at a shared understanding of innovation and an awareness of how it can generate greater value for all for the people we serve, the organisations we lead and the societies to which we belong.

We simply have to be brave enough to take the risk to imagine the possibilities.

What do you think?

More from our Networked Enterprise Institute CEO Summit 2015.