An enterprise’s work environment is only as good as its leadership’s innovation intent. If that intent is superficial, you can build a Disney-quality experience in your office and it wouldn’t matter.

When a leader sets a mandate or charter for innovation and reinforces that in his leadership style, then the environment will be an expression of that.

I worked with a Fortune 100 executive who was taking over a new sector of business in the consumer packaged goods industry. He benchmarked half a dozen organizations known for their innovative office environments and tried to incorporate their best practices.

Instead of installing a 4-foot wide office desk, he chose a drafting table. It was the kind of environment that you might find in an architect’s office where ideas are free flowing and creative.

In an effort to inspire and provide a catalyst for developing new business opportunities, he stocked the office with magazines, journals, and newsletters that were outside the company’s area of business. He knew the articles would foster new connections and ideas.

His are some small examples of how you could shape the physical environment and experience within it to reinforce what that innovation mandate.

Innovation ‘naps’ and ‘labs?’

A former employer created a nap room, which encouraged quiet time or an environment to recharge. I call them “innovation naps” because they dramatically boost the creativity of a team or workgroup much better than another cup of coffee.

Along those same lines, a trend is for enterprises to create a dedicated space or “lab” that will support innovative teams. This place is accessible to everyone and can be reserved for use. (Harvard Business School just established one this year.)  By merely scheduling the room, you are making the declaration that innovative thinking is the intent. I know a manufacturing manager who holds his plant supervisor meetings in the company’s innovation lab because it fosters more innovative thinking than in the factory.

Leaders should continually be asking the question: Is our culture a reflection of our innovation intent? If the answer is no, then it’s time to create a supportive environment that will help the enterprise reach its growth objectives.

Connect with me here, and find out more on our approach to impacting those innovation conversations at Insigniam.

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