Spark innovation by example – SFU Business workplace study

Dec 13, 2010

Stephanie Bertels, 778.782.5163;
Derek Moscato, SFU Business, 778.782.5038;
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.4323;

December 13, 2010

Companies striving for greater workplace innovation should try showing employees how it’s done creatively rather than overwhelming them with rules and regulations, says a Simon Fraser University researcher.

A new study by Stephanie Bertels, an SFU Business assistant professor, finds that traditional approaches like bringing in new HR policies or performance goals only address a company’s day-to-day needs.

Bertels examined more than 13,000 academic and industry sources and found companies that add less conventional tactics to complement traditional ones are much more successful at sparking creativity and new ideas among employees.

“Research shows sustainable organizations not only fulfill current commitments – they also support future innovation,” says Bertels. “Mere compliance in the absence of innovation means you’ll be left behind.”

A case in point is the company that moved its employees’ wastebaskets down the hall as a garbage reduction measure. The so-called “walk of shame” to toss trash inspired them to cut back and also come up with new waste reduction ideas.

“In addition to, say, creating codes of conduct and offering training programs, consider hosting product development challenges or having your CEO tell inspirational stories about how the company will look in the future,” says Bertels, who teaches undergraduate courses on sustainable innovation and managing for sustainability.

Bertels, who is also trained as an environmental engineer, says that in leading companies, sustainability is not an add-on – but rather is becoming a core part of business strategy.

The non-profit Canadian Network for Business Sustainability, funded by research grants and private and public partners, commissioned the report.

To access the 73-page report:
Embedding Sustainability in Organizational Culture: Systematic Review

To see its accompanying 20-page how-to guide:
Embedding Sustainability in Organizational Culture: Executive How-To Guide