Creating a Global Innovation Culture

What does an innovation culture mean to you? A magical space? A game room? An alternative universe? There’s a lot of talk and buzz about creating an innovation culture yet it seems to defy explanation. A ‘je ne sais quoi’ mystique and destination that we are trying to imagine and explore. Let’s try to re-frame this space by considering the dynamics of a global, multicultural, and digitally connected world – that would be a global innovation culture, or dare I say a multicultural innovation culture! 

What if we could create a global innovation culture based on three values – cultural empathy, creativity, and collaboration? According to my research with 200+ global leaders in 45 MNCs, these three values are shared by organizations that succeed in this mission. They optimize cultural diversity rather than manage cultural differences. They also nurture an organizational culture that promotes and captures the collective intelligence of local teams and markets around the world.

If you’re ready to take on the challenge of creating a global innovation culture for your organization, consider the importance of the following values for igniting inspiration and implementation across cultures and functions:

Cultural Empathy places emphasis on cultural diversity and global teamwork. Organizations need to ensure recruitment of a global talent pool in developing culturally diverse teams. This requires understanding of local cultures through international projects, training, exchanges, and collaboration worldwide. It’s about moving from training on cultural differences to engaging in multicultural collaboration and local innovation opportunities.

Creativity demands idea generation and innovative thinking. The continuous development of new ideas along with free-form thinking is essential to an innovation focus. This requires a creative and entrepreneurial spirit where adaptability and agility are important to initiating and realizing new ideas. Sharing diverse perspectives and ideas is important for multicultural teams when exploring and designing new solutions.

Collaboration requires transparency and knowledge-sharing in order to build an inclusive culture. This involves collaboration with cross-functional and cross-cultural teams based in headquarters and subsidiaries. An open and interactive communication process with easy access to information and resources are critical factors for global and local knowledge-sharing. This requires a blend of on site and online collaboration with digital platforms and tools that adapt to diverse languages and communication practices.

The opportunity for knowledge-sharing and exchange as well as initiative and risk-taking are the most important drivers for creating a global innovation culture. Yet, entrepreneurial initiative and risk-taking, idea generation and creativity, knowledge-sharing and networking were viewed as top development needs for international leaders and teams according to my research. Given the importance of knowledge-sharing and risk-taking, a global innovation culture with the values of cultural empathy, creativity, and collaboration may deserve more attention for your next world tour.This article is based on new thoughts and excerpts from the book “Leading Global Innovation” by Karina R. Jensen, Palgrave Macmillan / Springer.

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