Joining the innovation culture club

Creating an innovation culture is vital if companies are to differentiate themselves

Creating an innovation culture – an elusive mix of practices and attitudes that can boost performance – is vital if companies are to differentiate themselves. But while the subject of innovation is currently in vogue, the road towards innovation ‘best practice’ is still largely unbuilt. Professor Rick Mitchell, of Cranfield School of Management, told delegates at this week’s Innovation Conference 2008: “The whole business of innovation culture has not been tied up, like with Six Sigma.” He added that innovation can take many forms – and that ‘innovative products’ are just the tip of the iceberg. Many companies are developing innovative services, business models or processes, he said, citing Wal-Mart’s supply chain management, Ryanair’s business model – of offering less, rather than more – and Toyota’s process improvements as leading ‘non-product’ innovations. And while innovative companies share certain traits, an innovation culture cannot be reduced to a simple checklist. A company-wide change in attitude is often required. “The question of culture comes up when you say: ‘Is there anything else to do other than put these management practices into place?’” said Mitchell. Other speakers at the event – which was organised by Eureka, New Electronics and Cranfield School of Management – included Allyson Reed of the Technology Strategy Board, Carlos Huggins of e2v – and representatives from iDEA 2007 winners PDD, Industrial Design Consultancy, Crowcon and Altro. The 2008 Innovation & Design Excellence Awards (iDEA) are now accepting entries. The deadline is the end of June. Entry forms can be downloaded from . Alternatively, email Kerry Wilkins or Maggie Bridge for a form.