Yes, Innovation Is About People


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What Drives People To Innovation

The volume, complexity, and velocity of change make innovation imperative. Organizations strive to stay ahead of the curve by creating groundbreaking solutions, products, and services. However, amidst technological advancements and disruptive products that help organizations “jump the curve,” one key element of innovation is often disregarded or taken for granted. It is crucial to remember that innovation is ultimately about people. Driven by their creativity, passion, and unique perspectives, individuals hold the key to unlocking transformative ideas and driving meaningful change. People are those who will create innovative solutions and their business viability. In this article, we will explore the three key elements that underscore why innovation is fundamentally rooted in people.

Empowerment And A Growth Mindset: Cultivating The Innovator Within

The first element highlighting the key role of people in innovation lies in empowerment and a growth mindset. When individuals are empowered, they are more likely to take ownership of their work, embrace challenges, and push beyond their comfort zones. Empowerment is not solely about authority and decision-making power, but also about fostering an environment of psychological safety that encourages autonomy, trial and failure, creativity, and continuous learning. In her now seminal work about psychological safety, Dr. Amy Edmondson highlighted that individuals and teams that feel safe within their organization ultimately deliver better business performance results and, indeed, drive innovation. Cultivating a growth mindset is crucial for fostering innovation. Based on Dr. Carol Dweck’s seminal research [1], a growth mindset is characterized by the belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through effort, practice, and learning from failures. When individuals embrace a growth mindset, they are more likely to persevere in the face of challenges, learn from setbacks, and continuously seek improvement. Organizations can promote a growth mindset by recognizing and rewarding effort, providing constructive feedback, and promoting a culture that values learning and personal development.

To cultivate empowerment, organizations should provide individuals with the knowledge and skills they need in order to be more innovative, motivate them with a culture of innovation, and equip them with the resources, tools, and autonomy needed to explore their ideas and experiment with new approaches. By investing in employees’ professional development and creating opportunities for growth, organizations empower individuals to become lifelong learners and unleash their innovative potential. Innovation-readiness learning experiences can offer the workforce the opportunity to improve their innovation mindset skills. Initiatives such as pilots, innovation labs, hackathons, and dedicated time for creative exploration can offer them the resources, tools, and autonomy they need to exercise their innovative mindsets and skills. A great example of dedicated time for creative exploration and innovation is the now classic “20% time policy” [2] that Google instituted more than two decades ago and which brought us innovations such as Gmail and AdSense. By investing in employees’ professional development and creating opportunities for growth, organizations empower individuals to become lifelong learners and unleash their innovative potential.

Collaboration And Communication: Strength In Transparency And Unity

Collaboration is the second essential element that underscores the people-centric nature of innovation. Innovation rarely happens in isolation. Instead, innovation thrives when individuals come together and combine their expertise and perspectives to tackle complex problems. Cross-functional collaboration brings together individuals from diverse disciplines, such as design, engineering, marketing, and psychology, among others. According to research by Harvard Business Review, organizations can foster innovation by providing tools “that empower everyone in the organization to communicate strategically about innovation.” For example, Amazon encourages teams to draft their innovative project idea in the form of a press release, which is available to everyone on the team to review and offer feedback for improvement prior to launching a pilot to test the idea. By encouraging collaboration across different fields, organizations break down silos and create opportunities for knowledge sharing, idea generation, and collective problem-solving. Collaboration nurtures a sense of collective ownership and shared responsibility among team members, fueling their commitment to driving innovative outcomes. Furthermore, a key element of collaboration is open and transparent communication, which empowers individuals and teams to leverage their unique strengths and complement each other’s strengths. Through collaborative efforts, organizations can cultivate an environment that encourages experimentation, risk-taking, and iterative improvement.

Diversity And Inclusion: Nurturing A Mosaic Of Perspectives

The third element that highlights the significance of people in the innovation process is diversity and inclusion. By embracing different perspectives, businesses can challenge conventional thinking, break through barriers, and uncover innovative solutions. The research on how diversity drives innovation is indisputable. Studies have consistently shown that diverse teams outperform homogenous ones when it comes to creativity and problem-solving. In their Harvard Business Review article [3], Hewlett, Marshall, and Sherbin define diversity as two dimensions: inherent and acquired. Inherent diversity is derived from traits such as gender, nationality, and sexual orientation. Acquired diversity includes traits gained from experience, such as speaking foreign languages and working abroad. According to their research, 45% of organizations whose leaders exhibit at least three traits from each type of diversity, outperform and out-innovate their competitors. An inclusive work environment that embraces and empowers individuals from various backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and perspectives will probably outperform its peers. When organizations foster diversity, they tap into a wealth of insights and ideas that emerge from diverse viewpoints. To create an inclusive culture, organizations must actively promote allyship at all levels. This entails removing biases from recruitment processes, promoting equal opportunities, and fostering an environment where all individuals feel valued and empowered. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, businesses can harness the power of people and unleash their full innovative potential.


While technology and processes undoubtedly play a crucial role in driving innovation, it is vital to recognize that people are the true catalysts behind innovation. By cultivating empowerment and a growth mindset, fostering collaboration and interdisciplinary approaches, and embracing diversity and inclusion, organizations can unlock the full innovative potential of their people. Innovation is not solely about technological breakthroughs or market disruptions; it is about unleashing the creative power within each individual. By placing people at the center of the innovation journey, organizations can create a thriving culture that nurtures innovation, drives meaningful change, and ultimately delivers strong business performance outcomes.


[1] Mindset, by Carol S. Dweck

[2] Google’s Best New Innovation: Rules Around ‘20% Time’

[3] How Diversity Can Drive Innovation

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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