How to build an innovation culture

How to embed innovation in an organization must be one of the most discussed, little agreed-upon topics of our time. This week, it was the topic of a panel event at the Incentive 2 Innovate conference, held at the United Nations and organized by Peter Diamandis and his X-Prize crew. Chaired by InnoCentive’s Dwayne Spradlin, the heavyweight panel featured Neil Blakeseley, VP of Strategy Marketing and Propositions at British Telecom, former Halliburton CEO John W Gibson, Cisco SVP for Emerging Technologies, Marthin de Beer and author and former Cisco-er, Judy Estrin.

In my opinion, Gibson, now CEO at Paradigm, put his finger firmly on the issue at hand. “I’ve fired nearly everyone, rehired and had exactly the same company,” he said. In other words, fostering innovation is about the way you do business as much as who does your business for you. Recreate the same uncreative processes and you’ll have the same uncreative business.

There were no “aha”, breakthrough moments of clarity here. Instead, conference attendees came up with some perfectly reasonable suggestions of encouraging cross-department collaboration or creating internal networks for ideas. What came out loud and clear is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this critical issue.

I caught up with Spradlin after the panel to discuss the topic further and talk about Spradlin’s own pithy assessment, that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” Listen to the podcast here (with apologies for the sound quality — I thought sneaking outside of the UN to find a quiet spot was a brilliant idea… until the planes started whizzing overhead.)

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