4 Factors that Foster Great Innovation

What helps defines a culture of innovation? There is a multitude of factors that contribute to the nature, nurture, and environment of great innovation. Top advisors who help early-stage businesses and business leaders gain success weigh-in on four factors that foster creativity and entrepreneurship.

1. The Outside Environment

A cultural environment can have a significant impact on whether a fledgling idea takes off. What attitudes and support systems can allow a business to launch?

Certain cities and countries seem to be especially hospitable to innovation and entrepreneurship. Deborah Op Den Kamp, a consultant with Spencer Stuart in Silicon Valley says,

“There are some wonderful things about Silicon Valley that make it uniquely able to create the level of innovation: there’s no badge of disgrace for your company failing, there is a wealthy outflow of capital, you have access to lots of other creative people who can aspire you."

Innovative cultural environments can include:

  • a culture that values learning and education;
  • a sense of urgency or necessity, forcing solutions with limited tools;
  • support from governments or an environment with resources, guidance and access to markets.

Managing Partner for Mexico at Odgers Berndtson, Linda Shore, says,

“Emerging economies tend to have high creativity, and are less burdened with legacy and infrastructure, which normally are a deterrent to innovation…people must solve complex problems with whatever tools they have available.”

Environment of Innovation

2. Vibrant Internal Culture

A vibrant internal business culture often distinguishes the successful from the unsuccessful organization. Legacy companies invest heavily in recreating startup culture, such as agility and experimentation, within their own businesses.

Pierre Fouques du Parc, Managing Partner for France at Boyden says,

“The scale-up and startup business which have been successful – they are extremely agile and they are extremely fast…usually the startup and the scaleup are always fighting against time, which is their worst enemy.”

AESC’s members-only State of the Profession 2020 report includes insights from 600+ top business leaders. Of the responses, only about half (56%) of top business leaders globally feel agility is a strength within their organizations.

By fostering qualities of agility, resilience, and experimentation, companies and business leaders can cultivate openness, curiosity, and risk embracing thinking. These are necessary to step outside of a cultural comfort zone and both consider and understand broader markets. Company cultures that embrace risk, failure, and experimentation innovate more and get new products to market faster.

James Quincy, President and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company said, “If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough.”

Environment of Innovation

3. The Right Leadership

Building an innovation-friendly culture is often the result of good leadership.

Richard Lin, Office Managing Director of Korn Ferry’s Taiwan/Cross Straits Practice, sees great leaders “as having a vision, setting an agenda, creating a mission,” and adds “it’s all about loving what you do, creating that passion and energy. Those are the things that are intangible but can drive an organization to new heights.”

An effective business leader is open-minded, recruits and builds good teams, and projects empathy and humility. Good leaders are also good internal communicators. Effective internal communication leads to brainstorming, creativity, and innovation. Leaders who listen can inspire and capture fresh thinking from all over their organizations.

Op den Kamp says, “I think some of the best founders out there are students of the universe…understanding challenges they faced in the past and really opening themselves up to new ideas and new ways of thinking.”

4. Hiring is Key

Attracting, hiring and retaining talent is critical. Fouques du Parc believes, “There is an important quality in successful entrepreneurs – that they are very good at recruiting…hiring still remains the big success factor for a leader.”

Creating and maintaining company culture and values is also essential to success and fostering innovation. Op den Kamp says, “We think of culture as the unwritten rules of how an organization operates, that what creates the kind of fabric of a place.”

AESC Members can help business leaders foster innovation

New ideas are taking shape and taking flight under some consistent (and sometimes intriguing) circumstances. While there is no flawless recipe for success, no exhaustive list of the ingredients that guarantee a good idea will become a great company, top advisors are optimistic about the state of innovation of entrepreneurship.

AESC Members partner with organizations and business leaders worldwide to provide solutions for their most critical leadership challenges. CEOs, CHROs and Board Directors are invited to connect with a consultant via AESC’s Global Directory.

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This article is an excerpt from 'Fertile Ground: The Environment of Innovation' from AESC's Executive Talent Magazine, Issue 15.