Today’s insights are brought to you by Dean van Leeuwen.


Essentials for building a culture of innovation and exploration

Organisations with a strong culture of innovation successfully master seven essentials which together we call Full Blown Innovation:

  1. Balance the business
  2. Create shared understanding and ambition
  3. Reward curiosity
  4. Everyone participates
  5. Create capable and accountable innovation leaders
  6. Expansive Innovation
  7. Measure what matters.

Organisations that focus on these seven areas venture successfully on the journey towards creating a culture of innovation. We must stress these seven elements are just the start. Building a culture of innovation is a long-term commitment.


These seven elements prepare the soil and the climate your organisation needs to cultivate innovation.

Balance the business.

The first part of full-blown innovation involves balancing ten components – some which are cool and others that act to stabilise your innovation culture.

Conventional wisdom suggests only disruptive, nimble start-ups can truly be innovative. The acceptance that once an entity gets bigger organisational arteriosclerosis sets in, is simply wrong.

Our research reveals that large innovative organisations do things differently. They focus on balancing five ‘cool’ components with five stabilising components. By doing this, leaders in large organisations deliver remarkable levels of sustained innovation.,

To deliver products, services and delight clients, your organisation must manage innovation components that are ‘cool’. These components are widely written about and observed (it’s what you see above the water). These five ‘cool’ components include:

  • Higher social purpose
  • Tolerance for failure
  • Willingness to experiment
  • Psychologically safety
  • Organisational flatness.

But innovation in business requires a set of sophisticated stabilisers. The five stabilising components include:

  • Innovating for profit and growth
  • Rigorous discipline and an intolerance for incompetence
  • Culture of openness and candour
  • Individual accountability
  • Strong leadership

By integrating and balancing 5 cool components with 5 stabilising components, innovation in businesses thrives.

When we think about innovative cultures at leading companies like Google, Apple and Uber we tend to imagine football tables, bowling alleys, free food, slides, and cosy meeting spaces with beanbags. In a copycat response, workplaces all over the world are creating similar breakout zones and gaming areas, where staff can chill out, chat, and stimulate their creative juices.

Why? Because the conventional wisdom contends that these endeavours will foster a culture of creativity with relaxed, happy, motivated, and productive employees. In addition, a vast number of leadership books will instruct you to embrace failure, experimentation, psychological safety and non-hierarchical structures because these are all attractive ‘cool’ attributes that today’s talent wants to be part of.

Yet, most companies are finding that the implementation of all these enjoyable ‘cool’ components of innovation does not result in an upswing in useful ideas. This is because what Google Et Al. are doing, is often misunderstood. Simply asking your organisation to be more like Google is no more realistic than ordering a French poodle to sing “La Marseillaise” whilst playing the glockenspiel.

The reason innovative cultures in big businesses often fail to deliver the expected results, is that they focus too much on the cool components and overlook the ‘below-the-deck’ counter-balancing components.

Access our Innovation white paper here – where the TomorrowToday Consulting team provide their research on all 7 essentials which together we call Full Blown Innovation.



Dean van Leeuwen is the co-founder of TomorrowToday Consulting – a futurist consultancy working with leading organisations around the world. He is an expert on global trends, innovation, and strategic business transformation. 

You can access Dean’s latest research on ‘Closing the Innovation Gap – The 7 strategic and cultural essentials that separate successful large-company innovator’s here or chat with us about our ‘Full blown innovation’ keynote presentation.


TomorrowToday Global