To Innovate, Get the People Issues Right

By Jay Rao and Joe Weintraub

An innovative culture rests on a foundation of six building blocks: resources, processes, values, behavior, climate, and success. These building blocks are dynamically linked. For example, the values of the enterprise have an impact on people’s behaviors, on the climate of the workplace, and on how success is defined and measured. Our culture of innovation model builds upon dozens of studies by numerous authors.

When it comes to fostering innovation, enterprises have generally given substantial attention to resources, processes, and the measurement of success—the more easily measured, tools-oriented innovation building blocks. But, companies often have given much less attention to the harder-to-measure, people-oriented determinants of innovative culture—values, behaviors, and climate.

Not surprisingly, most companies also have done a better job of managing resources, processes, and the measurement of innovation success than they have the more people-oriented innovation building blocks. As many managers have discovered, anything that involves people’s values and behaviors and the climate of the workplace is more intangible and difficult to handle. As one CEO put it, “The soft stuff is the hard stuff.” Yet these difficult people issues have the greatest power to shape the culture of innovation, and create a sustained competitive advantage.

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Jay Rao

About the Authors

Jay Rao teaches two MBA courses and Babson Executive Education programs. His research has appeared in The Sloan Management Review, Journal of Innovative Management, and the Academy of Management Executive. He is a member of the Innovation Board at Ocean Spray, has a family-business background and sits on the board of The HJKP Educational Trust (India).

Joe Weintraub

Joe Weintraub is an Organizational Psychologist who focuses in the areas of individual and organizational effectiveness, and is the Founder and Faculty Director of the Babson Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program. He is the co-author of several books and is president of Organizational Dimensions, a management consulting and assessment firm based in Wellesley.