The Innovator’s Advantage: How to foster an innovation culture

As disruption continues to rise, how can you foster an innovation culture that drives growth? Discover our framework of core questions to help your business develop and nurture a successful innovation culture.
30 March 2023
innovation culture kantar
Chris Harkin

Partner, Head of Organisational Performance & Operations, Consulting UK


Partner, Head of Creative Strategy Consulting UK, North America

n morely
Dr Nicki

Head of Behavioural Science and Innovation Expertise, Kantar Insights, UK

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We all know that innovation is important for brand growth. It helps you keep up with the pace of market change, anticipate potential disruptors and react to changing human needs. When done right, a successful culture of innovation means making better business decisions, introducing new products that cement and facilitate growth, whilst anticipating potential disruptors and reacting to changing human needs.

Kantar’s Innovator’s Advantage guide provides a comprehensive perspective on how to create growth through meaningfully different innovation. We share our latest thinking on how to identify, build, test and launch market-leading innovation, from where you look for opportunities to how you track performance. And how to future-proof your innovation strategy.

Whether it’s the challenge of aligning behind a common strategy, or an imbalanced organisational design and skillset, there are many potential pitfalls on the road to creating and fuelling a successful innovation system.

So, can you foster a culture of innovation that will drive success?

Our experience at Kantar shows there are three key levers to nurturing a successful innovation culture. Here’s how to be truly innovative:


As the unexpected becomes the new normal, established organisations may not always have the luxury to fully quantify and test everything before acting. Indeed, high uncertainty and rapid change tend to reduce the relevance of the data that companies may have traditionally used for planning.

Often, the first challenge organisations face is defining the right innovation culture to build for their organisation. Some believe the more you innovate, the better – well that can be the case if …

  • You are a platform/tech-based business where fast-paced experimentation is feasible
  • You are lucky enough to have an endless budget
  • Leadership accepts zero control over potential outcomes, positive or negative
  • You are an early-stage start-up with limited financial risk

But in an established, conservative FMCG company there are many considerations…

  • How do you foster an entrepreneurship mentality vs. delivering short-term KPIs?
  • At what risk can you afford to be innovative? Financially and at an employee level, reputationally.
  • What % of time and budget can you spend exploring new ideas vs. focusing on the bottom line?
  • How do you present new ideas and thinking that resonates with senior stakeholders?
  • How do you move a business away from planning mode to doing?

The winning businesses of tomorrow will need to place bets on multiple possible futures and embrace human-centric understanding to anticipate, adapt and learn from new situations; to create and capture value quickly; to remain meaningfully different; and to keep their workforce secure and engaged. Our Inside Out + Outside In framework helps innovators to build and sustain the right mindset of exploration, curiosity and imagination even through uncertainty. Nurturing this type of agile thinking can feel like a radical shift but is critical from the earliest stages of innovation to ensure teams are looking not only for white spaces, but beyond them to the blind spots others can’t see.

It’s essential that your internal processes and messaging align with how you want to show up as an organisation to help you build innovation credibility across the industry.

So, how do you create a solid organisational structure with clear accountability and a defined biorhythm for more clarity and less debate around innovation?

Provide clear direction, set by leadership to fuel consistency and collaboration; focus on getting your leadership team on board and drive excitement and endorsement for the transformation you want to drive. Introduce simple guardrails and ownership into decision-making and empower individuals to adopt critical thinking and treat the business like their own.

See our latest report on Creating a Culture of Learning for Competitive Advantage for more inspiration.


Now the vision has been defined, alongside key principles for success, the next phase is to ensure you have the right people, capabilities and ways of working in place. It’s critical that to create an innovation-led culture, your workforce needs to embrace, demonstrate, and advocate the right behaviours and mindset. In a recent Kantar study, Leadership behaviours that bring Insights into the boardroom, we found that in leading organisations, insights leaders excel in human-centricity (curiosity and emotional intelligence), bravery (being courageous, embracing risk and experimentation) and pro-active business partnering (action orientated, owning accountability); the same is true for innovation.

Ask yourself:

  • Have you got the right people with the right skills and behaviours in place to work effectively and adopt a braver approach to foresight and innovation?
  • Do you have the right level of diversity and agility within your team to question and stretch thinking?
  • Do you have a balanced team of collaborators vs. competitors, thinkers vs. doers?
  • What capability and confidence gaps do you need to close? Can you build the capabilities required to succeed moving forward? If not, what profile of candidates do you need to recruit, or what external partners can help you get there?


Once the innovation ambition has been defined, and your workforce accessed, the focus should then be on defining clear processes that enable the team to flexibly respond to changing business needs with agility, speed and efficiency. It’s one thing to experiment with a new way of working, but another entirely to embed it as the new gold standard within your organisation and ensure it becomes a natural part of how teams recruit, operate and engage. Consider:

  • Have you got the right infrastructure in place to facilitate innovation and cross-collaboration?
  • How can experimentation and imagination become a KPI for your organisation?
  • How do you break down silos or friction points within teams and across functions to enable healthy debate and conversation?
  • How do you build communities of excellence to standardise and disseminate best practices globally?
  • What world-class tools and datasets are required to enable your team and business to consistently deliver outstanding innovation?

So now what?

By asking yourself these fundamental questions, you have completed a full operating model assessment around innovation potential. You will have explored how to handle leadership, build capability and enable integration across teams. The last step is to consider how best to communicate and measure ambition vs. success.

To what extent are you going to drive awareness, fame and excitement around innovation across your organisation? And how will you assess organisational progression around innovation, and thus business impact?

An easy way to track processes around organisational change, is by taking on a people-centric lens around successful embedding the get it – love it - live it approach:

  • I get it: Do the business and its people have a general understanding and a growing awareness of the change required around innovation and what it can deliver. Focus on landing new beliefs, concepts, definitions, and guidelines
  • I love it: Is the workforce adopting the new way of working, tools and datasets required to spark innovation: Focus on providing inspiration, internal ownership and endorsements across the organisation
  • I live it: Full commitment to a new way of working, sharing best practices across functions with innovation ambassadors accelerating the pace and scale of change, whilst challenging leadership: Focus on deepening the application of new behaviours e.g., lunch & learns, awards, coaching sessions, etc.

So, now you’ve defined your framework for creating and fuelling a successful innovation system within your established organisation we’re excited to hear about your next innovation challenge. Please get in touch to find out how we’ve helped other organisations achieve success.

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