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Live from the Front End of Innovation 2015: A Panel on Creating a Culture that Supports Innovation

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We expect you to show up as yourself at work. -- Vaishali Jadhav, Whole Foods

In that statement is one of the secrets not just to Whole Foods's culture, but to any cadre of people looking to innovate. Everyone brings their own frame of reference to their work, and one of the keys to innovation is harnessing that vast diversity and integrating it into a host of ideas. Many of the features that make Whole Foods stores a fun and exciting experience, such as bars and ice rinks, came from employees' putting a piece of themselves into their day-to-day work.

As Jadhav noted, having the proper framework is an essential to creating a culture that is supportive of innovation. For instance, people at Whole Foods don't jut work at a grocery store, they  are "grocers with a purpose," which is a statement that lets each team member create a meaningful work experience by serving the causes and values they find most resonant.

Similarly, W.L. Gore's Dr. Debra France talked about the company's principle of freedom both to be oneself and to support others in their growth and learning processes. Within this framework, failure becomes a genuine opportunity -- after all, when you care about the learning and growth of others, the first response to failure is almost always going to be, "What can be learned from this?" In that sense, "innovation" and "learning" are practically interchangeable words at Gore.

But, one of the most important features of a company culture, along with respect, is trust. France highlighted how the values of Gore have been consistent for decades, and everyone in the company is held accountable for upholding them. When people see that there is reliability and consistency in the living and maintenance of the values, they are willing to try new things, experiment, and engage in the prototyping that is considered essential to innovation.

In short: "Smart, well-intended people will do great things if you don't get in their way."

About the author
Orin C. Davis is a self-actualization engineer who enables people to do and be their best. His consulting focuses on making workplaces great places to work, and his research is on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. In addition to being the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory, the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark, a science advisor at Happify, and an advisor at FutureIdeas. Dr. Davis is an adjunct professor of Psychology and Management at Baruch College and a lecturer in Critical and Creative Thinking at UMass Boston. He writes and speaks avidly about human capital, creativity and innovation, and positive psychology. (@DrOrinDavis)

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