We want to build a culture of innovation.”

It’s a noble goal.  After all, a culture that values and encourages innovation is an essential component of an innovative company – one that repeatedly and reliably uses innovation to grow revenue.

But you don’t need to build a culture of innovation.  You already have one.

You need to unleash the aspects of your existing culture that fuel innovation.

It’s possible by making one shift in how you, and your colleague, think.

Stop (only) thinking like an employee

As an employee, you have a job to do.  You have responsibilities and deliverables.  There are processes your need to follow and TPS reports you need to complete.  In return, you receive a regular paycheck and perhaps an annual bonus.  If you’re successful, you get more responsibilities and deliverables resulting in bigger paychecks and bonuses.

Being an employee is not easy.  Every day you deal with office politics, decisions you disagree with, emergencies you didn’t create, and well-intentioned but annoying colleagues. Every year or so you also deal with market uncertainty, re-orgs, layoffs, and maybe even merger or acquisition.

But through it all, you know that if you solve the problem that you’re given in a way that’s been proven and deliver the expected results in the expected timeframe, you’ll get the paycheck and the bonus, and maybe even the promotion.

The work you do is important.  How you do it is important.

The world, the market, your company needs you to be a great employee.

But you don’t need to be only an employee.

Start thinking like an owner

As an owner, you have a job to do.  You need trying to figure out what problem you’re solving and how to solve it profitably so that you can sustain and grow your business. 

Being an owner is not easy.  Every day you answer questions that you never anticipated, turn the unknown in to the known and acted upon, inspire other to invest in you, take a leap of faith while maintaining faith in yourself.

But through it all, you ask questions and never accept the first or obvious answer.  You pour your time, energy, and passion into creating something you believe will make people’s lives better.  You invest in your business, yourself, your employees, your suppliers, and all the other people working together to build something.  And you remain confident that one day, you’ll reap the rewards.

Employees with an Owner’s mindset

At the heart of innovative companies and cultures are employees with an owner’s mindset.

They do their jobs and find ways to do their jobs better.

They follow prescribed processes and question the status quo.

They ask questions and work to find the answers.

They seek to understand decisions and engage to inform and influence them.

They deal with emergencies and take the time to investigate and address root causes

They cash their paychecks and work to build something better.

People who think and act like employees and owners (and know when each is required) deliver today’s results and create tomorrow’s business. 

Your job as a leader is to help them strengthen their employee mindset and build their owner mindset so they can unleash your company’s culture of innovation.