HP Innovation Issue 18: Summer 2021 | Page 8


Building a Culture Of Innovation

Tolga Kurtoglu , Chief Technology Officer and Global Head of HP Labs , says fostering a creative environment is a mark of strong leaders and empowered employees .
“I ’ ve learned that if you want to achieve ... creative energy , the conditions for innovation must be carefully cultivated and sustained .”
ESPITE BEING one of the

D biggest buzzwords of the business world , innovation is an elusive goal for many companies , large and small . One reason why : It ’ s less about operational results and more about culture , mindset , and leadership .

I ’ ve seen this play out in my own career at Palo Alto Research Center ( PARC ), Xerox , and NASA . At PARC , we were working on a research project that had proven extremely hard to crack . After a year and a half and tens of thousands of lines of code , our solution wasn ’ t scaling to what we call “ real-world problems .” We were stuck ! With deadlines and deliverables looming , the pressure was building .
Then the newest member of the team came into my office and said , “ We are going about it all wrong ; here is how I think we can solve it .” His proposal meant tossing out everything from the last 18 months of research and experimenting with a completely different way of tackling the problem . It was a bold move , but completely necessary . In the end , the team did an amazing job rallying around the new solution and spent the summer implementing it . Not only did it work , it became the basis of a digital manufacturing SaaS used around the globe .
It was an important lesson for me as a leader : For this innovation to come into the world , we had to be open enough to try something different . We had to be willing to take a risk .
It is the job of companies like HP to create the conditions where this type of correction — and the success that follows — can occur . Few of us are an Albert Einstein or a Grace Hopper , but we can all make leaps of ingenuity when supported . I ’ ve learned that if you want to achieve this kind of creative energy , the conditions for innovation must be carefully cultivated and sustained .
At HP Labs , we recently looked at all the ways that companies , leaders , and managers can foster this type of culture .
Innovation , in simple terms , is the process by which an idea turns into a practical reality . It is improving upon an existing product or process to make it better than it was before , or making something entirely new that creates opportunities . But none of this can happen if a company doesn ’ t set the groundwork .
The success of admired companies like Tesla , Google , and Netflix can be traced back to how they ’ ve adapted to changing needs through continuous innovation . But that isn ’ t enough . Companies must have innovation as part of their culture .
This means having leaders , managers , and employees understand and appreciate the innovation mindset . It must be fostered at all levels :