The keys to an innovation culture  

It’s one thing to talk about innovation. It’s another to bring it to life. 

There are a lot of common barriers that keep companies from adopting new ideas (often based on notions that have been handed down over time). 

We’ve etched a process right into our company’s culture that lets us quickly overcome resistance to creating and accepting new ideas. 

Photo: team working in our IdeaFarm1. We challenge our mental models

Most people (and companies) have dearly held beliefs about what can and can’t be done – what is feasible, possible, or achievable. We encourage our employees to challenge mental models in our company and in the industry in order to push our thinking beyond the known. 

Breaking our mental models lets us continuously look for new ways to solve complex problems, meet the emerging needs of our clients, and set the pace for the market to follow. It helps us remove the constraints of "how it's always been done."

2. We truly embrace employee empowerment 

When employees feel empowered by leadership to drive change, they can open up and let great ideas bubble to the surface. Employees who know their work has purpose can change things for the better in many ways, and their everyday observations can grow into new processes. 

We encourage risk taking, collaboration across teams and business units, and encourage continuous learning. We reward new efforts even when they end in failure.  

Photo: Artwork on our campus3. We provide an environment that inspires creativity, collaboration and communication

Speaking of conventional thinking, the physical work environment can play a big role in how engaged employees become in driving change and innovation. We’ve eliminated the physical barriers to collaboration and communication – there are no cubicles or offices, or obvious indicators of status. This reflects the idea that everyone’s ideas are important, and everyone is encouraged to participate. 

We’ve also provided spaces where brainstorming and collaboration can happen anywhere on our campus, from informal and open sitting areas to conference rooms lined with white boards. Our IdeaFarm was designed to get employees out of their normal routines and into new imaginative and intellectual territory.  

We use art throughout our campuses to provoke thought and conversation. Emerging art challenges the boundaries of what art is, just like we’re challenging the boundaries of what investing looks like. 

4. We embrace failure

This may seem counterintuitive, but unsuccessful ideas have just as much to teach us as successful ones. 

Rather than hide them away, why not bring them into the light and examine them? In fact, we advocate celebrating them – because a failure means that someone took a risk. More importantly, failure provides the ultimate line of sight to success.

Let failed projects be documented and discussed. You may be surprised at how much inspiration they can provide.