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Strategies to Boost your Innovation Culture – 4 Real-World Examples for CIOs

Strategies to Boost your Innovation Culture – 4 Real-World Examples for CIOs

Creating an innovative culture requires taking risks, forging trust, sharing ideas, and embracing diversity. Companies like Bayer, Bonobos, CyberCoders, and EY have implemented strategies to boost innovation. Bayer encouraged employees to work on projects outside their usual scope, while Bonobos prioritized trust and individual strengths. CyberCoders promoted idea-sharing through a training program, and EY embraced diversity in its content development. These practices foster open communication and collaboration, leading to a thriving innovative environment.

Strategies to Boost your Innovation Culture – 4 Real-World Examples for CIOs

There is no one size fits all when it comes to innovation, no single path that will lead to success. There are many ways to be innovative, but one thing is certain: the right L&D (Learning & Development) practices can cultivate innovation in any organization.

As made evident by L&D US Report, companies with executives highly engaged in L&D are three-times more likely to say their company has a culture of innovation. The report features exclusive interviews with L&D professionals at Bayer, EY, Bonobos, and CyberCoders, who share their different strategies to push innovation in their companies.

So, what do you need to do to create an innovative environment in the workplace? Here are the main points you should take into account:


With high risk comes high reward, and innovation is no different.

This is a common practice for pharmaceutical giant Bayer, and it's made evident by Karen Bicking, the Head of US Learning & Talent Development for the company, who piloted an action learning program in 2018, which had almost immediate effects. In its essence, the program enabled some of the company leaders to work on the projects outside their usual scope of work.

“They [the participants] gained experience beyond their regular role and gained exposure to senior leaders. We’ve seen a great outcome from that with a number of them being promoted already even though the program has just concluded.”

👉 To follow Bayer’s example, create initiatives that encourage employees to go out of their comfort zone and take risks.


Creating a culture of innovation cannot happen without trust. Being able to take risks without fear of repercussions is the key to developing employee confidence and setting the foundation for an idea-sharing and innovative environment.

“Focusing on strengths creates trust; it creates a safe space to try something and possibly fail, have a conversation about it, and move forward,” says Tiffany Poppa, the Director of Employee Experience at Bonobos, where trust and relationship building are the first concern and at the very core of their work culture.

“Our strengths-based approach has effectively fostered a culture of collaboration and open communication because it celebrates the individual,” says Poppa.

At Bonobos, prioritizing the nurturing of individual strengths and talents of employees over developing their hard skills is directly correlated to the development of an innovative environment.

👉 To repeat Bonobos’ success, create a culture of trust and openness and nurture the individuals in your team.


A single idea can spark the flame that pushes your company forward into the future, which is why it's so important to make idea-sharing and cross-level communication a priority.

CyberCoders´ L&D team seeks to make this a reality with their Associate Recruiter Incubator Program, which takes untrained employees and places them in an 8-week program where they learn to work in teams and communicate with each other.

Dani Chang, the company's Training Manager, explains what happens after the recruits finish the program. “We place them on teams that we feel are best suited for their management style. This has greatly contributed to a culture of idea-sharing and cohesiveness. Once on teams, they are exposed to new techniques from their managers and teammates” he says.

“These ideas are normally kept within the team, but with the bond created in the 8-week program we are seeing all prior generations of Associate Recruiters coming together to foster a culture of support and innovation.”

👉 To take CyberCoder’s lessons to practice, make sure your organization encourages idea sharing and cross-level communication. Take it a step forward and ensure they have a platform and a streamlined process to do that!


More and more evidence points to diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace as a means of developing an innovative culture. As stated in L&D UK Report, D&I is one of the five training courses most demanded in 2019.

Bayer's program to develop women leaders in the workplace is a great example of the benefits of having an active plan for D&I in the workplace. And they should know, having won the Catalyst Award, the highest honor for diversity in the US.

Other companies, such as professional services organizer EY (Ernst & Young), attribute their competitive edge to their D&I practices, as well as their innovative spark.

“We’ve had people from over 25 different countries developing our content,” says Martin Hayter, EY's Global Assurance Learning Leader. “The team has a global flavor to it. It brings more creativity and higher quality and we know that the content we develop is going to be applicable to different cultures, and to both emerging and mature markets.”

👉 To learn from Bayer and EY, make sure your company not only talks the talk but walks the walk when it comes to diversity.


As important as it is to have forward thinking and creative L&D strategies, taking a step back and recalibrating one's programs can be the difference between success or failure.

The bottom line is that creating a safe space through L&D, where people can feel free to take risks and share ideas without fear of repercussion, will inevitably lead to open communication and collaborative environment where innovation can not only exist but thrive.

Written by Louisa García, Content Editor at

Would you like to share your opinion on innovation, idea management or work culture? Reach out to us to discuss possible content collaboration opportunities.

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