The top five qualities of innovative companies, via HBR

Companies that know how to innovate have something in common — they make it a priority. The companies listed in Hay Group’s seventh annual Best Companies for Leadership (BCL) ranking recognize the value of  innovation and put it at the heart of their corporate culture.

How do they do they do it? Well, you may recognize some of these best practices. The theme remains one of openness, flexibility, agility, and growth via learning:

1. Create a safe space for innovation

  • Idea – allow calculated risks
  • Example – build a lab environment into part of the culture

2. Enable organizational agility.

  • Idea – allow job definitions to be more flexible and fluid — if you want an organization to be adaptable, and flexible,  and changing to the needs of the marketplace, take a look at the job structure.
  • Give employees room to grow and explore their range of interests within a company, for example, Google is great at this.
  • Example – build empathy across organization, independent thinking and problem solving by allowing others to join a new department for a month/quarter, etc.

3. Broaden perspectives. 

  • Idea – new ideas can come from anywhere – an innovative company knows this and is an expert at “staying open”.
  • Example – Solicit feedback on ideas from the community and company as a whole.

4. Promote and reward collaboration.

  • Idea – the majority of innovations are born from collaborative efforts.
  • Create an environment that encourages collaboration
  • Ideas can be those of the individual, and “yes, anded” by the group as a whole.  Reward dependence, not just independence.

5. Celebrate success and learn from setbacks.

  • Idea – fail forward
  • Innovative companies see problems and failures as learning experiences. By reacting this way, companies encourage risk taking and keep the innovation engine running. An employee who feels they can never mess up, will never try to be anything other than average.
  • Encourage “what if’s” and “why not’s”


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