As innovation continues to drive the most successful companies, how can CEOs best create cultures of innovation. I recently spoke with Tom Kinisky, President & CEO of Saint-Gobain Corporation, the North American arm of the French manufacturing company Saint-Gobain which was founded in 1665. I asked Tom from his perspective leading 15,000 employees from a $6 billion business his take on reaching your team to focus on innovation. He responded, “CEOs often talk about the strategic imperative for their organizations to boost innovation, but I would suggest that less than 10 percent of employees typically embrace the call. Most people are not confident they are innovative enough to contribute to this priority.”
I then asked for his advice, where he shared, “Embracing innovation begins with thinking enterprise and thinking everyone. Innovation is not just R&D’s job; it’s everyone’s job and it can be taught by eliminating unconscious bias, ensuring everyone is part of the journey, and redefining how you train employees. Enterprise innovation looks like a manager who hires a candidate with ideas different enough from their own to make them just a little bit uncomfortable. It looks like a machine tool operator who welcomes co-bots into her daily routine when she discovered how they help her perform her job more safely and efficiently. It’s a workforce that uses curiosity and passion to develop new solutions instead of doing what’s always been done.”
And if you’re thinking of building a culture of innovation I remember Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos telling me how he could never on his own create a culture of innovation, and the only real way is to leverage all associates. Think of the two key words Tom shared … curiosity and passion; as combining those two is the key to a culture of innovation.