»We cannot predict the future – but we can create it« is the motto of the leading product design company IDEO, that we visited ten years ago. There, the following principles, which we think are the key ingredients of an innovation-driven company culture, were lived in a particularly way.

Self-determining and leading

Innovation needs the freedom of the individual, the opportunity for self-determination to try something newand also the permission to fail. However, clear leadership is required, which for example, provides orientation in certain phases of an innovation process from the outside, which intervenes directly and gives orientation.

Diversity is required

The recipe is simple: Different know-how, different backgrounds, different personal qualities, which are all focused on a common goal. It needs people with intrinsic motivation working for the cause and common values so that everything goes smoothly and doesn`t end in chaos. But it also needs good deal of leadership intervenes, which engages in certain situations and helps to bring the energies back on the right track.

To ask for forgiveness

instead of asking for permission – is a value which characterizes not only IDEO , but also other innovative companies. Underlying this principle is the cultural permission to take responsibility.

Or can you as a manager ignore the following statement: “I have tried something in the interest of the company with a lot of energy, which I was actually not allowed to do. It failed and I/we have learned from this … ”

Learning instead of asking

Good observations are worth, much more than many questions. Something new arises mostly not out of customer surveys or classic analysis but comes from observing behavior, understanding of problems or because it is possible to set cross-connections. The company culture must facilitate this form of exploration, which also costs time.

Just do it

Innovations develop when in a short time all the forces are bundled and the impossible becomes possible. Teams that work through the whole night to follow an idea are the classics.