What kills innovation? Your role as a leader in supporting an innovative culture

H. Soken Nelson (N.H. Soken Consulting, Hugo, Minnesota, USA)
Kim Barnes B. (Barnes & Conti Associates, Inc., Berkeley, California, USA)

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Publication date: 28 January 2014



The purpose of this paper is to suggest a set of leadership practices that can help to build and sustain a culture of innovation.


The article is based on the authors' many years of consulting and facilitating learning experiences in innovation management in a broad range of organizations. The authors have observed that specific leadership and management practices seem to be strongly related to the success or failure of organizations in building self-renewing innovation environments.


Leadership and management behaviors that engender fear, a lack of focus and communication about organizational innovation strategy, a paucity of resources (time, money, encouragement) are among the factors that make innovation less likely or less successful. A clearly communicated purpose, the ability to accept and use failure, and an accessible process for getting a hearing on ideas are among the supportive factors.

Practical implications

Many leaders understand that innovation is key to their organization's ability to survive in a connected and competitive business environment. Fewer understand and/or are willing to make the changes that will create and sustain a culture of innovation. Leaders who are willing to adopt some of these practices are likely to achieve better results in encouraging talented people to contribute their capabilities, ideas and efforts to strategic innovation initiatives.


Successful innovation is not created through magic and good fortune. It is the product of strategic thinking, a supportive culture, great talent, managers who know when to be involved and when to step back, and leaders who listen, support risk, and learn from failure.



H. Soken, N. and Kim Barnes, B. (2014), "What kills innovation? Your role as a leader in supporting an innovative culture", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 46 No. 1, pp. 7-15. https://doi.org/10.1108/ICT-09-2013-0057

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