How to develop a culture of innovation and improvement

Posted by Roxanne Chugg

There is no silver bullet for developing a culture where innovation and improvement is encouraged and enabled, valued and recognised. 

It doesn’t just stop at sending employees off to some improvement training and then saying “okay now go and improve”. 

A culture of innovation and improvement is one where individuals grow, learn, collaborate and contribute to the overall goals of the organisation; they know how what they are doing is making a difference.   Through effective communication, role modelling of behaviour by leaders, information sharing and collaboration your organisation can develop a culture of innovation and improvement.  Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Communicate expectations – clearly articulate, communicate, enforce and reinforce expectations around values and behaviours and around the way you expect people to work and contribute, innovate and improve.  Don’t waver.  Reinforce expectations at every opportunity and ensure expectations are consistent
  2. Develop skills, knowledge and a tool kit – understand and agree on the knowledge and skills competencies you need your people to have to enable them to innovate and improve.  Develop the skills and knowledge on how to innovate and improve with your people based on what they need, what they already know and cam share with others.  Develop a consistent methodology and tool kit that works for your organisation and your people to help get them started.  Train in the methodology and the tools
  3. Explain to everyone why their ideas matter – people need to know how their contribute to a better workplace, a successful organisation and happy clients/customers. Their ideas, questions, thoughts and suggestions about new and better ways of doing things are important contributions that set your organisation apart
  4. Develop a system and processes – ensure that there is a system and process to capture, acknowledge, consider and act on new ideas and suggestions.  Decide if these opportunities need to be worked on by an individual or whether a more cross functional approach is required
  5. Provide encouragement – praise individuals for their ideas, recognise your team’s efforts:
    • a. Hold recognition ceremonies
    • b. Say “thank you” and mean it
    • c. Recruit with the values and skills of improvement in mind
    • d. Promote people who innovate and improve
  6. Allow experimentation and mistakes – people learn through trial and error.  Set up a process where your people can discuss learnings (what worked and what didn’t) and capture this as organisational knowledge.  Remember excellence is the ultimate goal and along the way their will be experimentation and imperfection.  Truly engaging people is the key…


“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”William Pollard