How do I create a more innovative or entrepreneurial culture?

A Brief Case


Randy Baker,
President and CEO,
Actuant Corp.

There is no magic bullet for creating an innovative spirit in a company, but I believe there are three basic elements present in the most successfully innovative organizations.

“The first element is an atmosphere of continuous improvement, where everything we do is on a constant course to be better. Simply put, ‘knowing we are never perfect.’ The improvement spirit and employees who demonstrate this behavior must be rewarded. It includes everything from daily processes to capturing market share, since an organization that is consistently seen as ‘best in class’ becomes very proud of its team’s success.

“The second element present is a customer-centric culture. We strive to constantly look for a better solution to help customers improve their performance. Henry Ford once said, ‘If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.’ This is a great example of seeing beyond the current market environment and having an organization willing to take on risk.

“Finally, the organization must be all-in, meaning personally and emotionally invested in the company’s mission, and share in the results of its success. For leaders, it is imperative that they live these cultural values and be willing to invest in the right people. When you put all of these factors together, you have the recipe for an innovative, growing and successful company.”


Tim Sullivan,
REV Group Inc.

“Creating an innovative and entrepreneurial culture, although related, are actually somewhat mutually exclusive concepts that, if managed properly, achieve exemplary results. 

“First and foremost, you must clearly state that being the innovator in the industry you serve is part of your purpose. Customers and employees must know that this is not only a key strategy, but it is what is expected. Everyone must know that achieving a ‘me, too’ solution is unacceptable. The drive to differentiate is in the heart and soul of the company. We believe that innovation is doing everything we do every day different than everybody else, whether it be with products or processes.

“An entrepreneurial culture is driven by the right corporate structure, which will not only drive innovation, but it will also move the company forward at a very fast pace. At REV, we have a matrix management structure which drives decision-making throughout the company by challenging people to make informed decisions. We are a $2 billion revenue company and we have approximately 200 people that make critical decisions daily. These individuals have five mentors that assist them with their thought processes, but they do not make the decisions. 

“Stating that innovation is of paramount importance, and expanding decision-making throughout the organization, drives innovation through an entrepreneurial culture that is rewarded monetarily and publicly celebrated throughout the entire company and the industries we serve.”


Jeffery Yabuki,
President and CEO
Fiserv Inc.

“Culture is a complicated idea. Remodeling a culture is far more difficult than building from scratch, yet the need to change is paramount in today’s world. For Fiserv, our mission is centered on enabling success for our clients – and helping them best serve their customers. That notion anchors our efforts around innovation and empowerment. The world is moving fast and we need to move with it.

“Innovation is an important part of what we do. We introduced a program last year called FIN (Fiserv Innovation Network) to connect our focus on innovation with the great work happening across our 23,000 associates. Over time, FIN will serve as a wrapper for the innovations we create, manage, drive and promote every day. It highlights these activities and allows us to tap into our collective creativity to support the best ideas – and fail fast when ideas may not fit the market opportunities.

“It is also important to define innovation broadly so all can participate. Innovation can be a new idea, process or technology. Creative ideas can, and will, come from everywhere within an organization. By encouraging our associates to see, understand and contribute to these efforts, confidence will be built. And organizations can do magical things when they believe.

“Be patient, persistent and know that over time the change will come. Anything worth having is worth working for – and the right culture matters more than anything else.”

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