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3 tips to foster a culture of innovation

Sarah K. White | Oct. 6, 2016
Innovation is a hot topic in the corporate world these days, but what exactly does innovation look like in practice and how do you achieve it?

Innovation starts with corporate culture -- it needs to be fostered throughout departments, encouraged and, perhaps most importantly, followed up on. What defines innovation in the enterprise is constantly evolving and changing. In today's business climate, innovation hovers steadily around technology and keeping on top of the latest industry trends to stay relevant.

Pamela Rucker, chair at the Technology Advisory Council, and CIO Advisor for Women in Leadership on the CIO Executive Council, says that innovation is moving at lightning speed, allowing business to grow and flourish in ways they never could before.

"We see new markets emerging and new opportunities arising every day because we now have all the information, tools and technology we need to support our collective brainpower. What once took years to conceive and prototype can now be completed in a matter of days. Effective leaders will recognize that the age is changing, and that taking a digital, consumer-based approach will support an environment of innovation for all of their employees, both now and in the future," she says.

Invest in Talent

Rucker says one of the best ways to stay innovative is to cultivate talent in your ranks -- invest in the right people to get the job done and give them the tools and resources to leverage their skills.

"Hire and promote people with diverse skillsets, diverse backgrounds and diverse cultures that believe in big ideas for how your company can change the world. Give them an incubation center to promote those concepts, and you will see innovations you never considered, and you'll find ways to grow and sustain your customer base by promoting the new things you have to offer them," she says.

Sri Shivananda, CTO at PayPal, says the company likes to start investing in talent before potential candidates have even graduated. With an intense internship program, PayPal gets students in the door working full-time for eight to 12 weeks. They get a good sense of the culture and what PayPal has to offer, says Shivananda, and they bring about real changes to the company and make an actual impact.

Shivananda says that, unlike other businesses that put interns in a corner and pile them up with busy work, PayPal gives these students real world experience outside of the world of academia. It helps prepare them for the corporate world, and in turn, PayPal gets to benefit from their unique perspectives and discovering emerging skills that these students are learning in their undergraduate programs. And plenty of those interns come back after graduation, which means PayPal gets employees that already understand the culture of PayPal and can jump right into their careers.

"In return, it's a great process of educating these interns on what it is to work for a company that is this large, with so many employees and so many different offices of the world," he says.


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