Building Trust and Innovation
June 7, 2019
We need to think more carefully about building trust and innovation. Much has been said about the ‘pillars of innovation’– those necessary components of innovative business strategy needed to drive positive change. But less has been made of their relationship with trust.
Google says there are 8 pillars of innovation while Innovators 360 purports to have struck on 5. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology teaches that there are 4 such pillars, and the software company, SAP, suggests there are 3. It would seem that when it comes to innovation strategies and models, the leading architects of organisational culture agree that a classical style is best, but disagree on just how many supporting columns are needed.
But whether innovation should be understood as having 8, 5, 4 or 3 pillars, there is general consensus about the nature of those key supports for proactive innovation strategy: The common theme across the literature is that cultures where innovation thrives are characterised by the following things:
- Open sharing of information;
- Trading perfectionism for the view that it is ok to fail; and
- Strategic partnerships
“When innovation is the aim, the ability to cultivate trustworthiness and build appropriate levels of trust are not just a soft-skills; they are the foundations on which the success of any innovation strategy rests.”
The above ingredients for business innovation can be arranged into however many different pillars you like, but it is these things that must be in place if an organisation is to bring about positive change. This is because innovation is a collaborative process, and collaboration will fail unless information can be shared, perspectives can be challenged, and there is room to learn from mistakes.
But something critical is missing from the received wisdom about how to develop an innovation strategy.
In sharing their insight about the pillars of innovation, groups like Google have demystified the workings of the greatest changemakers. But they have said less about the most key ingredient of innovation: trust.
- Without trust, the ‘open sharing of information’ will not happen.
- Without trust, it is difficult for groups to shed cultures of perfectionism.
- Without trust, strategic partners will be stunted by ‘checking up’ on each other and fail to collaborate effectively.
In short: if you want to drive innovation in your company, trust should be a priority. It is for this reason that when I work with clients on strategies for innovation, conversation always turns to relationships and trust. Because, when innovation is the aim, the ability to cultivate trustworthiness and build appropriate levels of trust are not just soft-skills; they are the foundations on which the success of any innovation strategy rests.
If you’d like to have a conversation about how Philosophy at Work supports companies in the area of trust and innovation, start a conversation with Brennan here.