Andréa will discuss how company culture determines innovation capacity at the PICNIC Innovation Mash Up.

Meet...Andréa Mallard, Design Director, IDEO...

If you have to pick only one trait or characteristic that distinguishes innovative companies, what would it be?

A very human culture. Truly innovative companies concentrate just as much on fostering an internal sense of purpose, on rewarding the right behaviors and interactions, and on how it feels to walk through their doors as they do any particular innovative methodology. It's easy to establish a new process. But building the culture needed to support that process is a never-ending task that takes real empathy, skill, and commitment.

What companies do you most admire and why?

I'm getting more interested in companies that are actually genuinely focused on the three p's - people, planet, and profit. And I'm not talking about "green" companies per se. I'm inspired by any firms that truly focus on building a strong, not fear-based internal culture, who acknowledge and appreciate how what they do affects the larger world, both good and bad, and who ultimately enable people and their employees to live a better life. There are plenty of companies who make killer profits but are ultimately a miserable place to work - and who actually don't contribute to the good of the world, no matter how elastic one's definition. I don't think these things need to be in tension, and the companies who really try to understand the relationships between all three are the ones that I find enormously inspirational.

What's the biggest mistake companies are making which is preventing them from innovating effectively?

They don't change their attitude, behavior, or their expectations. In other words, they try to force "innovation" into the same culture, stage-gate process, and with the same quarterly return requirements they've always had. Innovation, by its very definition, sits outside business as usual.

What is the favorite innovation project that you have worked on? Why does is stand out?

I've contributed to hundreds of amazing projects over my years with IDEO, so I'm sincerely unable to choose. And they all tend to follow the design thinking process, or some bespoke variation thereof. But the ones that do stand out share important qualities in common. The work I'm most proud of isn't when we've designed an innovative solution, or product, or business, or brand (as satisfying as that may be), but when we actually change the company itself, from the inside out. When the people working there, say, "You've helped us change who we are, not just what we do." That's the kind of lasting impact that makes what we do so deeply rewarding. 

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