Building an Innovative Ecosystem

How many organizations do exactly what the competition does? How many continually push-the-envelope in terms of experimentation and trying to “change the game”? How many do the same thing, year-after-year?

Lack of Innovation

How many products are truly new and solve long-term problems? How many new cars make you stop and stare? How many restaurants disrupt the local food scene and draw endless lines? How many motorcycles in the last 100 years have changed the game?

How many ads do you ignore? How many ads tell you why you should buy? How many ads don’t communicate anything? How many ads smack you in the face, get you excited, make you sit-up and pay attention?

Marketing is Strategy

How many strategic marketers (yeah, I know, stop laughing) have read Sun Tzu, Liddell Hart, Drucker, and Ries and Trout? How many product developers have read the classics from James Webb Young or Dr. Edward de Bono? How many art directors and copywriters have read books from successful admen such as Lord & Thomas, David Ogilvy, Rosser Reeves, Joe Sugarman, or Dave Trott?

Experience Life

How many employees go on yearly adventures? How many visit new cities and countries? How many eat new and strange foods? How many proactively mingle with people outside their “tribe” or attend conferences outside their industry? How many challenge themselves or push beyond their comfort zones or explore many different things? How many live a life of endless discovery?

Creativity develops from a wide range of experiences and new and shifting perspectives. Creativity develops from constant learning. Creative ideas develop from using time-tested and effective tools and techniques to connect multiple “dots”. Creative ideas do not just happen through serendipity. Creativity is not the sole domain of a select few. Everyone must and can be creative. Creative thinking drives innovation.

Create an Ecosystem

The importance of creativity and idea generation is as important as ever. With new, aggressive competitors entering markets from all over the globe, leaders must push for new, innovative, and differentiated products, services, and processes to drive growth. Unfortunately, most teams lack foundational skills to innovate and work within an environment that does not promote innovation. Employees cannot innovative without the right tools and corporate structure.

Leaders need to build innovative ecosystems that foster, encourage, and promote creativity to drive innovation. Training employees in creative and critical thinking skills, building a culture that accepts failure and encourages experimentation, and developing centers of knowledge for shared learning is critical for long-term growth, high employee engagement, and building long-term brand loyalty. A foundation for ongoing growth starts at the top.

Leadership Role

It starts at the top. Sure, some proactive employees will do this on their own. However, to succeed in today’s challenging business environment, leaders need to drive a culture of creativity and innovation and build an innovative organization. It happens no other way.

Leaders must put in place the systems and structure for employee development. Continuous training, ongoing practice and skill usage, feedback and interaction with experts (e.g., scholars, authors), rewards system, and knowledge systems are just the basics. It’s the blocking and tackling, not trends or gimmicks.


Open workspaces, ping-pong tables, and beanbag chairs are not what drives creativity. Training, skill development, and a culture that accepts failure and promotes continuous learning results in creativity, innovation, and success. Employees would rather learn and create, than have a cool office.

Start small. Promote every win. Build a group of apostles that drive change. Be patient and never stop communicating. Walk the talk. Make learning a part of the organization and celebrate wins and losses. Make it fun. Create an organization that continually questions the status quo and does it better, differently. Build an innovative ecosystem.