Regardless of the industry, all businesses have the same general purpose - to be successful. Your company’s mission statement may be worded a little differently, but the basic drive of your business is to grow in your industry and be a success. No one starts a business with the intention of failing. The not-so-simple question is how does a business owner succeed in today’s society?

How businesses operate has evolved from one decade to the next; in the early twenty-first century,  companies like Google and Pixar and Kayak began to revolutionize the workplace atmosphere and how executives fostered new ideas and growth for their company - the culture of the innovative workplace was born.

What does it mean to be innovative?

What exactly is “an innovative culture” in a business setting? Simply put, it is an environment where the leaders (you) encourage creative thinking and allow employees the freedom to bring ideas to the table - freedom to think of ideas for the business in the first place, with the assurance that their voice will be heard.

Popular companies praised for their innovative work culture include:

  • Pixar
  • Kayak
  • Airbnb
  • Zappos
  • Netflix
  • Amazon
  • ServiceNow

What are some of the hallmarks of an innovative culture in the workplace?

A flexible workspace 

This is a key element that the majority of innovative companies have in common. Employees have the freedom to work in environments that best suit them, from having solitary space to areas for groups to collaborate on projects. Some companies also allow their employees to work from home, as long as the work is done and done well. Netflix is one company that has an open/flexible work arrangement, allowing employees to work from home/wherever they are -- as long as the work is completed on time and meets the business's expectations. This arrangement has actually been met with increased productivity and a higher quality of work.

Support from the top 

Another important feature of an innovative culture. As the leader, you (and other executives/managers) need to be active in your support of your employees’ creativity, including allowing some space for failure. Why is failure okay? Because, sometimes like a Phoenix rising from ashes, good things can come from the failures. 

In fact, Instagram was actually born from the failed attempt by creators Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger to build another app that focused on traveling. The only part of that project that users liked was the photo sharing section. So they eventually scrapped everything else and focused on what worked - the result was Instagram.

The right people for your business

Sometimes the candidates who look the best on paper are not actually the best fit for your company. Zappos CEO Tony Tseih instituted a new interview process for the company that begins with a “culture fit interview”; no matter how qualified the candidate is, if he/she does not prove to be a good fit, then that person does not continue to the rest of the interview. Having the right people to help your business grow is vital. 

Willingness to re-stir the pot 

Even the most innovative companies can get complacent if they do not allow for change. IBM has been around for decades, and one of their secrets to success has been an acceptance of changing tides in the business world and a readiness to roll with those changes. The idea of “if it ain’t broke” may apply to your company’s culture, but you must also be willing to rip up the carpet and lay new floors if things stop moving forward.


Every business is different and you will need to find what works best for you and your business. At the same time, what works for Amazon, Pixar, Zappos, Google, and ServiceNow may be worth trying out in your business. Just saying.