Building a Culture of Innovation: A Lesson from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

By Jeremy Brown | Culture
August 6, 2018

Can the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum really teach you a thing or two about building an innovative culture? You bet. Read on.

In an article on Innovation Leader, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame CEO, Greg Harris, shared his thoughts on what innovation means to the nonprofit organization.

One notable insight that Harris mentioned was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s adoption of the minimum viable product (MVP) approach to driving continuous improvement. If you’re not familiar, the MVP approach is when a new product is developed with limited features and functionality to test the waters and gather feedback. The final product is only fully developed if there’s sufficient evidence (e.g. large volume of new users) that further development is a good idea.

The great thing about utilizing MVPs is that the methodology can be applied to virtually anything…even a museum as Harris can attest to.

But there was something else that Harris shared in the article that brought up an important foundational element of building a culture of innovation, which happens to be high on the priority list of many companies – 86% of Spigit customers alone started innovation programs with the intention of using them to create innovative cultures.

Idea implementation and the impact on culture

At Spigit, we spend a lot of time examining what sets innovative companies apart from the rest. Luckily, many of these companies are already in the Spigit community, so it’s infinitely easier to get the inside scoop and see what these companies do differently.

Time and time again, we come back to one common characteristics that plays a significant role in a company’s ability to innovate: culture.

Build a successful innovation program

From Tesla to Google (Alphabet) to all the usual suspects we’ve come to associate with innovation, innovative companies have cultures that act and think differently.

Having said that, what lesson can you learn from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as it relates to building a culture of innovation?

Referring back to the Innovation Leader article, Harris shed light on a subtle differentiator that companies with the most innovative cultures have in common when he said:

“We’ve learned to not accept the status quo, and we always wonder if we can continuously improve in all areas. We started with increasing the volume of live music we offer in the museum and on our plaza.” He goes on to say, “After one summer of testing about 20 days of music, we doubled down and did 40. Now we’re up to 60. For all of our visitor tracking, we use NPS [Net Promoter Score]. As we see things have an impact, we increase them. We’ve had some really great wins, and that has set a framework for the staff to see that anything is possible.”

It’s the latter part of his statement that is so important. More specifically, the effect experimenting and implementing ideas had on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s staff.

Seeing is believing. When employees see leadership challenging the status quo by implementing ideas and testing their viability, it gives them permission to do the same and the confidence to think outside the box. We’ve seen this impact employees first hand.

However, in order for innovation to truly be a key pillar in your company, idea implementation has to be an action that you follow through on.

Why?

Aside from the opportunity to impact your business, each idea that’s implemented helps you build credibility with employees. The more you show the willingness to implement new ideas, test, and refine them as you go, the more you signal to them that you won’t stand for the status quo.

If building a culture of innovation is on your company’s list of high priorities, start engaging your employee base and implementing ideas.

Final thoughts

Have you ever seen a herd of elephants? Each member of the herd follows the matriarch. Where she goes, they go too.

The same concept can be applied to the workplace: where leadership goes, employees follow.

If leadership is risk averse, employees will adopt this behavior and err on the side of caution, which can stagnate growth and creativity.

If leadership is challenging the status quo and implementing ideas, employees will adopt this same behavior, which leads to surfacing opportunities for growth.

Bottom line: innovative cultures are built on the latter, not the former.

The question is, which type of culture do you want?

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