The main points in brief

  • The key to an innovative company is its people plus a working environment conducive to innovation.
  • If a company wants to be innovative, it must invest in the corresponding culture.
  • Agile working practices, a strong customer focus, and tolerance of mistakes are elements that encourage innovation and creativity within the company.

Many companies have the desire to be innovative. And rightly so, because after all, innovation is crucial to remain competitive on the market in today’s fast-moving world. However, innovative ideas are not created in a vacuum. Companies that aspire to be creative and innovative must first lay a sound foundation on which to build. This foundation is a working environment that encourages innovation and creativity, and sees itself as an integral part of the corporate culture.

Tip 1: Understand that innovation comes from within

If we look at examples of well-known innovation pioneers such as Apple, Google, Salesforce, and Adobe, we can see that these companies have a deeply rooted culture of innovation and place their focus on research and development.

Not every company can and must change the world with its radical innovations. All the same: If a company wants to be innovative and creative in the long term, it must establish innovation as integral to its culture.

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Tipp 2: Define a shared vision for successful innovation management

For a culture of innovation to develop across the entire company, it takes a clearly defined shared vision that permeates all levels of the organization. This serves for everyone involved as a guideline on how innovation is to be practiced and fostered within the company.

A vision can be based, for example, on a customer-focused innovation concept. The goal here is to revolutionize the customer experience through continuing innovation and to create the best solutions for customers’ changing needs. The nature of the innovation can also be of an ecological or social nature, meaning that the company seeks to make a positive contribution to the environment and society through successful innovation.

Tipp 3: Use agile working as a driver for innovation

Agile working methods play a key role in the modern business world. They are based on the principles of flexibility, speed, and continuous adaptation, in order to be able to respond swiftly to changing market conditions or customer requirements.

Agile working methods are also a catalyst for a company’s innovative drive. The decisive factor here is interdisciplinary collaboration to foster a culture of innovation: The formation of teams comprising specialists from different areas such as business development, IT, and compliance fosters a comprehensive understanding of the various facets and processes of a project. This integrative approach is fertile soil for creativity as well as comprehensive, innovative solutions.

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Tip 4: Know what customers need

Another important feature of agile working methods is a pronounced customer focus. Agile teams concentrate on understanding the real needs and wishes of customers and developing, adapting, or enhancing their products or services accordingly. This is often achieved through iterative processes in which the design, testing, evaluation, and optimization of products or services take place in short, recurring cycles.

Find out in this article how your employees can help you to come up with new ideas for the further development of your products and services.

Tip 5: Live an open culture of discussion

An open culture of discussion gives individual employees the space to share their own thoughts and creative ideas without constraint. This strengthens the feeling of appreciation and belonging among staff and motivates them to deliver exceptional achievements. Encouraging managers to question existing structures and processes and to contribute their own thoughts, expertise, and insights can lead to the emergence of unique ideas with great innovation potential. This in turn strengthens the company’s culture of innovation. A working environment that not only allows but actually rewards risk-taking and creativity often becomes a magnet for talented and visionary specialists.

Find out in the Growth Talk on the topic of innovation how the Swiss robotics company ANYbotics motivates its employees to achieve top innovative performance.

Tip 6: Use tools and structures as innovation boosters

Within a good innovation culture, it can be very helpful to have special tools, rules, structures, and infrastructures to motivate staff additionally and empower them to create innovations. As part of its key4 initiative, for example, UBS organizes so-called “sales rooms” in which all relevant stakeholders come together physically. Direct communication stimulates the exchange of ideas and favors quicker decision-making. At these meetings different perspectives can be explored and synergies exploited.

There are also many other tools, supporting concepts, and vessels that help people to be innovative. Here are some examples:

  • InVision Boards and centralization of information: These boards represent in visual form all important customer touchpoints along the product journey and help the company to identify potential for improvement. They serve as a central repository of information and are conducive to transparency and clarity in the innovation process.
  • Centralized collection of ideas: Setting up a shared mailbox or a digital ideas portal makes it easy and straightforward for employees to contribute their suggestions. This ensures that good ideas are not lost and that everybody has the opportunity to make a contribution.
  • Innovation workshops and training courses to generate ideas: Through regular events focusing on creativity and innovation, people can develop their skills in these areas and learn new techniques to implement their ideas more effectively.
  • Create incentive systems for innovation: Rewards or recognition for innovative suggestions or successfully implemented projects can further boost employee motivation. These can include financial incentives, recognition in corporate communications, or career opportunities.

Tip 7: Create a positive error culture

A significant aspect of an innovative corporate culture is a constructive approach to failure. It is crucial to create a culture in which failures are recognized as an indispensable part of the innovation process and where risk-taking is also actively encouraged. Managers play a key role in this: By highlighting their own failures as learning opportunities through their own behavior and openly sharing these experiences, they can send a powerful message to their teams.

By transparently communicating failures and proactively admitting to mistakes, an environment is created in which people feel safe to try out new ideas without fear of negative consequences should they fail. This smooths the way for innovation. Here too, managers are called upon to set a good example and develop a confidence-building error culture that nurtures people’s creativity.

And finally: Being innovative in the long term takes time

A fair amount of patience is required until innovation has become an integral part of a company. Changing a corporate culture to be more innovation-friendly is a lengthy and incremental process that demands perseverance and strategy, especially at executive level and among managers. As an aspect of innovative capacity, it is crucial for successful innovation management. After all, a change in culture cannot be brought about overnight, no matter how emphatically and loudly it is announced. As in many areas of life, it’s true here too: Good things take time.

Portrait of Max Pfister

Max Pfister

Head UBS key4 & Self Service Transformation

As Head UBS key4 & Self Service Transformation, Max Pfister is responsible for the development of the UBS key4 digital product line. Max Pfister joined UBS in 2013 as a graduate trainee. Since then, he has held numerous positions at the intersection between digitalization and strategy development. He holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Zurich and Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.

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