What We Stopped: 16 Activities That May Not Improve Culture

By Alex Slawsby |  March 31, 2020

As part of our recent research on “Creating a More Innovative Culture,” we asked 259 leaders of innovation if there were activities they’d stopped doing that were initially intended to influence the culture at their organizations. For this post, we narrowed our focus to just the 76 responses provided by people who described their culture as innovative — versus those who said they were not quite there yet.

Forty-one percent of this respondent set said that they had put an end to certain activities that were intended to spur a more innovative culture. Here are 16 of the things they’ve stopped, and the reasons why. All quotes are verbatim from survey respondents, along with the industry they work in. 

Open Idea Collection Campaigns

“Idea submission tools developed into a ‘complaint’ tool, and a way to point out what employees felt everyone else should be doing.” — Automotive, Transport & Logistics

“Open platforms for idea submission. When not aligned to a specific business value challenge, they lose energy quickly.” — Energy & Utilities

“‘Great ideas’ website that was a black hole in terms of responsiveness/action.” — Financial Services

Events and Hackathons

“Idea/shark tank competitions [were] more work than they were worth. Many of the ideas were things we’ve tried and shut down or aren’t practical for our business. People who are outside innovation in many cases don’t have the background [to] understand what works and what doesn’t.” —Energy & Utilities

“Hackathons [and] innovation sprints [were] window dressing in hard-tech spaces.” — Technology

“Innovation events and challenges. The perception that even the rewards given for attending the day were not enough.” — Health Care

Training and Networks of ‘Champions’

“We tried…[creating a network of] innovation champions, but we realized that these staff were often the company’s over-achievers, which meant although they had the right mindset and passion, they didn’t have time or faced burn out.” — Non-governmental Organization

“Years ago, we had a team of 15-20 associates lead a ‘train the trainer’ program to educate leaders in the design thinking process. It has since been cut back to one person who focuses on applying human centered design to business-specific use cases. Leaders have noted that the design thinking process does not allow projects to operate at the speed they are looking for. This is one area [in which] there is still disagreement across teams and leaders.” — Financial Services

“Design-thinking team building project activities [were] fabulous, but when the work gets underway, these types of activities seem superfluous — which they are not.” — Aerospace & Defense

“We have tried ‘innovation committees’ and also created a network of idea spotters; both failed to take off due to a lack of middle-management buy in.” — Sports & Entertainment

Incentives and Time to Innovate

“We had an initiative to [set aside] ‘Hours for innovation,’ but it didn’t work because of the company’s agenda.” — Industrial Manufacturing

“We tried giving cash prizes, but it wasn’t effective. [More effective:] Advocacy from leadership, dedication of a budget for proof-of-concepts, and allocation of time for staff to execute their innovation projects.” — Real Estate

Other Activities

“We used to share links to three-minute videos of innovation from across the world. The idea was to inspire people to think beyond the obvious and influence organizational culture to become more innovation-friendly. However, we stopped this activity about four years ago; as WhatsApp use proliferated, such videos would often already be circulated in employees’ peer groups.” — Conglomerate 

“I think different groups have tried things to promote innovation (e.g., no uniform [clothing], uniformity being anathema to out-of-the-box thinking perhaps being the logic) that other groups have subsequently rejected, arguing that innovation and fundamental ‘accepted practices’ can and should coexist.” — Aerospace & Defense

“We have stopped focusing on [business unit] sponsorship, [which has a] low payoff. We rely on a ‘pirate’ mentality. It is slowly normalizing after five years, but sponsors are [still] the exception. We encourage rebels to step up and demonstrate the art of the possible.” — Energy & Utilities

“Top-down, forced culture change backfired! The front line is where 97 percent of the change energy is. We just tap into it. It is infectious!” — Energy & Utilities


Get the complete research report, “Creating a More Innovative Culture,” here