Creating a culture of innovation

The CEO of W. L. Gore & Associates offers insights into how the company has built a culture that fosters innovation.

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W. L. Gore & Associates has been called “the most innovative company in America” by Fast Company magazine –and has been named to that magazine’s current Fast 50  list of innovative companies. It’s consistently been listed as one of the best places to work. And its corporate culture de-emphasizes hierarchy so much that its current CEO became CEO only after her peers nominated her.  It’s no wonder that W.L. Gore’s current CEO, Terri Kelly,  thinks the company’s corporate culture has a lot to do with its ability to innovate.

As Kelly said in a recent presentation at the MIT Sloan School of Management,

A lot of companies ask about ‘How do you innovate ? What do you invest in R&D?’ They’re not really the right questions to ask. We would flip that and talk more around ‘How do we create the right environment where collaboration happens naturally — that people actually want to work together, that they actually like to be part of something greater than just the individual contribution?’ And if you get that part right, all the other pieces fall in place that allow us to creat this great innovation cycle within Gore.

Kelly’s 55-minute presentation describes how W. L Gore’s unusual culture nurtures innovation through a variety of atypical practices and values — from a preference for small facility size to the idea that “leaders….are only leaders if someone wants to actually follow them.”

Her talk is well worth listening to and offers an example of how one company has, over time, distributed leadership and developed a culture of innovation. It’s tempting to highlight a number of individual practices here, but, as Kelly points out in her speech, “it all has to work as a system.”

Comments (14)
To make the knowledge worker productive « Enterprise 2.0 and the collaborative workspace
[...] Of management thinking/model:  Creating a culture of innovation [...]
Etes-vous croyant ? « Le miroir à plumes
[...] Une entreprise où les actionnaires ont foi dans les salariés au point de laisser ces derniers choisirent librement le patron de la boite parmi eux. Gore, l’inventeur du Gore-tex, 9000 personnes & 2,5 milliards de $ de chiffre d’affaires, 50 ans de croissance et d’innovation. Au passage, ils ont choisi une femme : Terri Kelly. [...]
Tech IT Easy » Liberating Leadership, intrinsic equality and world-class businesses
[...] Another common principle with liberating leaders : they are the culture keepers. There is a strong will to foster this. We live the culture (Terri Kelly CEO of WLGore – link to her video). [...]
Liberating Leadership : why happy workplaces make world-class businesses « Hypertextual
[...] Another common principle with liberating leaders : they are the culture keepers. There is a strong will to foster this. We live the culture (Terri Kelly CEO of WLGore – link to her video). [...]
Leaders have followers « Le miroir à plumes
[...] la présentation de Terri Kelly, la CEO de Gore, sur leur gestion de l’innovation. A noter que Gore pousse loin la logique de [...]
DEBORAH MILLS-SCOFIELD
They are truly an amazing company - i've seen similar on a smaller scale and perhaps they will grow up to be as successful.  Being privately held makes it all a lot easier.  I was privileged to be part of a small team like this, but it was short lived....
Creating a Culture of Innovation « FUNKENSPRUNG Heartbeat
[...] W.L. Gore & Associates – we believe one of the outstanding companies in Management Innovation. Watch CEO Terri Kelly’s inspiring talk at the MIT Sloan School of Management. [...]
msatterwhite
I had a similar occurrence (2x now) as Carlos so have not been able to see the entire presentation.
CARLOS ROSS
It is definitely a presentation worth watching, as much as I could. It's a pity I haven't been able to see the whole presentation as it always gets stuck after 15 or 20 minutes.
Creating a Culture of Innovation « NUTs & FUNKENSPRUNG
[...] W.L. Gore & Associates - we believe one of the outstanding companies in Management Innovation. Watch CEO Terri Kelly’s inspiring talk at the MIT Sloan School of Management. [...]
mnulfateh
It's impressive way of thinking to take companies to become innovatives which is always unkown. Dr. Muhammad Naeem ul Fateh
Nurturing a culture of innovation at W.L. Gore | Game-Changer
[...] SOURCE: Improvisations MIT Blog [...]
La fábrica de creatividad « Martin Mendez blog
[...] me enteré vía una publicación del MIT Sloan Management Review que Gore fue seleccionada por la revista Fast Company como la empresa más innovadora en América y [...]
scano
Really, it´s an impressive way of pushing an organization to become innovative.
It remains the challenge of managing all the contributions and ideas that are worth implementing. Is there a way of doing so at L.W. Gore?

Cheers.