The Heart of the Matter
August 04, 2011
Inside/Out Culture of Innovation


If you are a member of an organization that wants a "culture of innovation" -- you have two basic choices: outside/in or inside/out.

Outside/in is the most common approach. It assumes that re-engineering systems or processes is the way to go. You know, crank up the rewards, have more brainstorming sessions, increase cross-functional collaboration, buy idea management software and so forth.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you, but it's often just a slick way of moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic. It looks good. It's promising. You feel like you are doing something, but the ship is still sinking.

The other approach -- inside/out -- is far less common. Understandably so. And why it's less common is because it's slower and, to a lot of left-brained business people, borders on voo doo.

The inside/out approach doesn't so much aim for "organizational change" as it does individual change (working on the premise that an organization is nothing more than a collection of individuals).

In the inside/out approach, each person commits to -- as Mahatma Ghandi put it -- "be the change you want to see in the world."


Ah, personal responsibility! Personal accountability! The place where the buck stops. You! Me! And every person you work with.

It's not about re-engineering. It's not about new initiatives. It's not about processes, acronyms, websites, or whatever.

It's about mindset -- as in the "place" every single person in your organization is coming from.

The fact is: every single person in your organization already knows what to do in order to have a culture of innovation. They do. They really do. It's common sense.

Consultants like to make it mysterious, of course, but it's actually very simple.

Does your organizations' longstanding history of imperfection get in the way of each individual operating at their highest potential? Of course it does. Will refining systems and processes help? Of course they will. But the real deal is NOT a "program". The real deal is each and every person bringing their innate wisdom to the table every single day. Their highest self. Their best self.

If you can find a way to get a critical mass of people to be committed to inside/out change, you're 90 percent of the way there.


Simple, unfortunately, is not the same thing as "easy" -- especially these days where so many of us worship at the feet of complexity.

Your thoughts?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at August 4, 2011 04:45 PM


This post seems to touch on the art of creative leadership. I've always found it to be challenging when it comes to driving out the best of individuals. Micromanaging, intimidation, etc. can all get in the way. Here's a relevant quote I like:

�Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.�
― Doris Kearns Goodwin

CPSI 2012: Ideas to Action, a conference on Creativity & Innovation. Hosted in Atlanta, GA from June 19-21. Visit

Posted by: Daniel Wu [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 18, 2012 02:55 PM

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