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The iOrganization – Building That Innovation Culture

February 24th, 2010 by admin Leave a reply »

Just read Josh Cable’s Industry Week article on Building an Innovation Culture.

Several thoughts on this, as someone who has worked for both large (IBM, Apple, Paramount/Viacom, AOL) companies in my past  — all of whom where relatively innovative, and someone who has worked with many innovative START-UP companies in the past 20 years…

I agree with Josh that some tenets of a culture of innovation are:

  • risk-taking  and unconventional thinking are encouraged
  • technical personnel are pushed to venture beyond their comfort zones
  • leadership takes a role in shaping this “entrepreneurial” behavior with the firm
  • specific corporate roles (like Chief Innovation Officer) are used to drive policy and action
  • mentoring programs from senior execs to model/encourage organizational creativity

This principals mirror many that I talked about in a previous post “10 Ways Leaders Create Innovation”.

However, I may disagree with Josh on one fundamental point – it’s not just the TECHNICAL personnel that one can push, it is ALL DEPARTMENTS.  There are enclaves of originality/entrepreneurship often locked up within many different parts of the organization and leadership can influence innovative/creative behavior from many different departments…but it takes very different forms in the iOrganization.  I call this “functional creativity” and the idea is to unlock it in several areas – not just technical/product sides of the business.  For example:

  • Marketing can be very innovative in the way it marks target markets and draws in new customers
  • Sales can become very creative in the way it sells/distributes to products
  • R&D can innovate in product, design, and “customer development” (how it includes the customer in its design process
  • HR can be innovative in the way it sets the culture (building upon the example leaders are setting)
  • Production/Operations can be creative in how it reduces expenses and re-engineers core “activities”
  • and…the entire organization can be innovative in the way it develops new business models (as a team)

I call a firm that has 3 or more of these innovation pockets moving at once The iOrganization (The Innovative Organization).  The typical iOrganization has 3 overall elements combined into one: (a)  the leadership to set an example of how to be creative in a corporate setting , (b) the culture to match the leaders’ examples – one that embraces change, flexibility and risk-taking, and (c) surrounded by the right environment — leading to a the bias for creative action.



In the next 5 years, I believe that adopting an iOrganiztion mentality and  innovation as a “survival” strategy and not just a growth strategy for firms, as Josh points out in his article. And the senior team (particularly the CEO) have to exude the qualities that they want their iOrganization to follow – creative behavior can be taught and caught.

In a recent email exchange with author Robert Brands (a new book on corporate innovation called “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival”), we both concurred that this is where the iOrganization typically falls short – the leadership has to set the example, and has to do it in concrete and visible ways.
I’d like to hear others’ thought on this and real world examples  – please comment on this blog post, or tweet me at

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2 comments

  1. Helen Owens says:

    I appreciate you taking the time to share them with people.

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