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For association professionals and organizational leaders, innovation should always be top of mind. But in order to accomplish meaningful change, your organization has to have the right foundation to support the experimentation and expectations true innovation brings. Having an innovative culture allows your organization to focus on and support its teams during their attempts to create something new.

Citing research by Babson College professors Jay Rao and Joseph Weintraub, co-publisher of The Financial Brand, owner/CEO of the Digital Banking Report and host of the Banking Transformed podcast Jim Marous wrote that an innovative culture requires a foundation of six building blocks.

“These include resources, processes, values, behavior, climate and success. Each of these building blocks are dynamically linked,” Marous wrote in Digital transformation demands a culture of innovation.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these six building blocks — and how membership organizations can work toward instilling them.


Without the proper resources, attempts toward innovation are futile. Funding, tools, programs and other resources are necessary investments for organizations looking to lead through innovation. As well as these basics, have your organization set up plans for resource allocation — minimizing the need for micromanagement.


Micromanaging projects takes valuable time and resources away from other important projects. Sit down with your team and outline the steps and processes your organization supports to increase independence and creative freedom, streamline decisions and simplify all of your team’s projects.


As the building blocks for your organization, values are the driving force behind every decision, product and innovation. Organizations that have a particular focus on their values produce happier employees more willing to experiment with innovation. Having a purpose behind previously meaningless work pushes the quality and sincerity of work towards success.


The age old tale “do as I say, not as I do” works for parents and teachers. But taking this adage from personal to professional leads to a work environment unconducive to true innovation. Modeling the behavior you want to see leads your team to feel comfortable taking the steps necessary for growth and success, and helps them understand expectations.


The atmosphere of your organization can make or break the ability to successfully innovate. Acceptance around failure, emphasis on experimentation and an overwhelming sense of support leads to employees feeling comfortable with speaking up and leading change. 


When working toward building an innovative culture, it’s important to establish what the end goal is — and praise your team when it is accomplished. What exactly are you looking for your employees to accomplish? Are these goals small, frequent, easy or difficult? Setting up a standard for success allows your team to know exactly what they are working toward, boosting their confidence and as a result, the quality of their work.

Utilizing these six building blocks to create a foundation conducive to innovation will propel your organization into true change, meaningful discoveries and support future endeavours. Having the ability to experiment with innovation with the unwavering support of an organization’s innovative culture could mean the difference between growing with the industry or being left behind.

Ashley Neal
Post by Ashley Neal
November 16, 2020
Ashley is a marketing and communications professional with expertise in sales conversion, copywriting, and social media.