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Driving innovation through organisational culture

At Blue Door Expo in October, we devoted a full panel discussion to the subject of innovation, and why it matters. We asked our five experts for their advice about how to establish and foster an organisational culture where innovation thrives.

You can watch and listen to the full debate from our YouTube channel:


Here’s what they had to say about organisational culture:


Karl Liriano, Head of Innovation at O2

I come from an engineering background, and it’s clear to me that organisations tend to fall quite quickly into a routine, or a certain way of working. My advice would be to find ways to inject completely different thinking into the business environment.

On a personal level, that might mean encouraging someone from a different department to work with you. At the organisational level, it might involve putting together project teams comprising people from a broad range of departments. It could even be something as simple as watching a wacky YouTube video before a meeting.

It’s about creating disruption. Something that just changes the normal routine, that stretches people, and puts them in a slightly uncomfortable place. You need to recognise that you’re not going to get innovation from the same people, doing the same things, all at the same time.


Phil Scully, CIO at Costa Coffee

I agree that if you’re doing the same things, at the same time, with the same people, then you are probably going to fail.

Innovation is not just a technology play, it involves people, processes and products. For me, developing a business mindset that takes on challenges, looks at products and reviews processes in a different way, involves embedding a culture of diversity and inclusivity.


Louise Hunter, Corporate Affairs and Marketing Director at Northumbria Water Group

I would advise any organisation to ‘stay curious’. Encourage your people to question constantly – that may only be possible if your organisational culture allows for open conversations, where people are comfortable giving each other feedback.

In fact, openness extends beyond just conversations. At Northumbrian Water, we aim to be an ‘open’ organisation, and one that seeks to partner and work with organisations of all sizes, from a number of different sectors. We believe it’s important to explore opportunities for partnership, and then to grow and maintain those relationships we establish. It’s an approach that is embedded into our culture, and I believe it helps us to foster innovation in the group.


Andy Burton, CTO of The Very Group

I agree with the need for openness, and how important it is to have feedback loops in place. I also believe that innovation comes from a ‘growth mindset’. You need to believe that things can and will change.

The focus should be on meeting customer needs, because otherwise there’s a chance that you are innovating just for the sake of it. However, businesses need a more than just a sense of pace. If you look at the businesses that don’t exist anymore – many of which were once major brands – many foundered because they failed to innovate, or failed to innovate quickly enough. That’s why a sense of urgency is an important aspect of an organisation’s culture.


Simon Reed, Head of IT Service and Operations at Suffolk County Council

For innovation to thrive, a business needs to recognise that with innovation comes risk. So it’s important that the organisation, and the people within it, are willing to take risks and are not afraid to fail. There is valuable learning that comes from failure – your next attempt is likely to be more successful, or it might offer up further opportunity to innovate instead.

A culture where it’s ok to take a few risks makes innovation more likely.


In what ways have you enabled innovation through your organisation’s culture?

Remember, you can follow the full discussion on our YouTube channel.


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