Breakthrough Culture at Top Companies

Breakthrough Culture at Top Companies

Innovation is the key to staying competitive in today's rapidly evolving business landscape. This study delves into how nine leading companies from various industries have successfully cultivated a culture of innovation. The research sought to answer four main research questions for each company: their background, the challenges or opportunities for innovation they faced, their workplace culture, and the innovation outcomes.

Sunway University's Associate Professor Dr Calvin Cheong Wing Hoh and colleagues identified six common themes essential for creating a culture of innovation:

1. Emphasis on Research and Development (R&D)
Committing resources to R&D is crucial for sparking innovation. Companies that prioritise R&D are better equipped to develop groundbreaking products and solutions.

2. Flexibility and Adaptability 
Companies must be agile and responsive to changing market conditions, stakeholder demands, and global trends. Flexibility allows companies to pivot their core competencies and seize new opportunities.

3. Diversity and Inclusion: 
Embracing a diverse workforce brings a wealth of perspectives and insights, fostering creativity and innovation. Companies prioritising diversity are better positioned to meet the needs of diverse customer segments.

4. Continuous Learning and Development 
Supporting continuous learning ensures that employees' skills remain competitive and up-to-date. This commitment to development is vital for maintaining a cutting-edge workforce.

5. Risk-taking and Experimentation
Encouraging risk-taking and experimentation allows employees to explore radical solutions without fear of repercussions. This approach can lead to significant breakthroughs and innovations.

6. Sustainability
Aligning innovation initiatives with sustainability goals addresses environmental and social responsibilities. This strategic focus enhances a company's brand image and reputation.

The Innovation 360° framework was developed from these themes — a comprehensive approach to building a culture of innovation. This framework emphasises diversity, inclusion, and sustainability, driven by internal push factors like continuous learning and risk-taking and external pull factors like market adaptability.

By implementing Innovation 360°, companies can enhance their brand image and customer loyalty by prioritising diversity and inclusion, which leads to innovative solutions meeting diverse needs. Additionally, a commitment to sustainability showcases social responsibility, attracting socially conscious customers and investors. Emphasising flexibility helps companies adapt to changing market conditions, maintaining relevance and competitive edge. Lastly, fostering continuous learning and development ensures a skilled workforce, driving innovation and attracting top talent.

However, there are challenges to implementing Innovation 360°. Balancing diversity, inclusion, and sustainability with profitability can be difficult, as these initiatives may require significant resources. Additionally, strict regulations may challenge highly regulated industries like finance and healthcare to adopt some framework aspects.

Despite these challenges, the Innovation 360° framework is a valuable guide for companies looking to improve and innovate. Even if certain elements are not fully applicable, the framework provides a structured approach to fostering an innovative culture.

The Innovation 360° framework offers companies a strategic and systematic method to nurture innovation. By focusing on diversity, inclusion, sustainability, flexibility, continuous learning, and risk-taking, companies can enhance their brand, adapt to market changes, and maintain a competitive edge. This study highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach to building a culture of innovation, providing valuable insights for both theory and practice in business and management.

Associate Professor Dr Calvin Cheong Wing Hoh
Sunway Business School
Email: @email


This article has been adapted from Calvin W. H. Cheong, Long She, Lan Ma, Sitara Karim, Ling-Foon Chan, Poh Ling Chong, Pai Wei Choong, Chin Chuan Gan, Nampuna Dolok Gultom, Stephen T. Homer, Syed Monirul Hossain, Ken Yien Leong, Joyce Nga, Arsalan Zahid Piprani, Wai Chuen Poon, Jaspal Singh, Shehnaz Tehseen and Evelyn Mei Ling Wong (2024), Building a culture of innovation: Innovation 360◦, DOI: 10.1002/joe.22255.