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Furthermore, all employees must be on an equal footing to share ideas and experiences that contribute to a solu- tion. “If I’m not fostering a culture of inclusion, then I’m not going to get the best idea,” another executive said.
Diversity and inclusion are particular- ly important with emerging technologies that can create ethical issues, such as artificial intelligence and machine learn- ing, another executive said.
“It is really critical to bring a lot of diversity into your design meetings and discussions because issues can get through that might be detected by people looking at it from different walks of life and perspectives,” the executive added.
‘A culture where people are allowed to experiment and learn’ Another element that is critical to innovation is creating an environment where it is OK to fail. That led to a
discussion about the value of failing fast to test the validity of new ideas.
“The ability to fail fast is absolutely important, and it is a concept that we need to inculcate with all our talent,” an executive said.
“We have to accept failure and not just say, ‘That was bad. We shouldn’t do that again,’” another participant said. “But we have to learn from the experience and create a culture where people are allowed to experiment and learn.”
In addition, companies and agencies must create a culture where people can disagree and where leaders take the time to listen. One executive said every- one should sit at the table during meet- ings. When early-career team members sit along the wall, “I ask them to come to the table,” said the executive, who also makes sure everyone has a chance to speak. “If we invited you to the meet- ing, we want to hear from you.”
The participants offered other tips on building an innovation culture:
• Hire people who are curious by nature and help them find their voices.
• Use internship programs to bring in new talent and new ways of thinking. • Convert high-achieving interns to
full-time employees.
• Create reverse mentorships that
allow early-career professionals to introduce experienced employees to new technologies and concepts.
The executives agreed that building a culture of innovation takes leader- ship, but one participant laughed about CEOs who say they are going to change the corporate culture. They cannot do that alone.
“You change the behaviors around how receptive you are to ideas,” an executive said. “It’s the culmination of those behaviors that changes the culture.” n
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