Innovation – The 4 C’s


Innovation is a key aspect of moving forward, but without support from the top, many new initiatives never make it past the drawing board. We’ve summarized this article by The Financial Brand, because we believe innovation is vital to an organization’s success. These 4 pillars of innovation, context, culture, capability, and collaboration, give organizations a road-map for empowering innovative thinking.

1. Context

No innovative process begins with all the answers. It’s almost impossible to create new strategic options that scale beyond an experiment without context, because most experiments have challenges as soon as an organization tries to integrate them back into ‘business-as-usual.’ This is where the initiative faces the battle of fitting into pre-existing standards, processes and procedures.

The Innovation Context aims to lay the foundations of success from the beginning by involving considerations for:

  • Organization Structure
  • Financial Structure
  • Physical Space and Location
  • Identity and Values
  • Performance Targets and Incentives

An organization’s existing structure, location and premises may not be ideal for encouraging the next pillar of ‘culture’, so decisions on context need careful consideration at the highest level.

2. Culture

The next step is to create a culture that empowers innovation. Key elements of innovative culture include:

  • Curiosity
  • Experimentation
  • Maker / Hacker
  • Starting with Why
  • Learning through failure
  • Problem discovery

A culture that stifles innovation is one of the quickest ways to lose innovative talent. Innovative individuals tend to latch onto problems they are passionate about solving. If they feel they can’t solve that problem within an organization because the culture does not permit it, they may go elsewhere. The most likely outcome when an innovative culture is not in place is that your best talent provides solutions for a competitor. Worse yet, they create their own ventures that disrupt the entire industry.

3. Capability

Organizations must have structured methods to identify and evaluate the ideas they want to invest in. Organizations must guide individuals and initiatives through a framework that empowers individuals to become ‘interpreneurs’ – catalysts of internal ventures that could become strategic options.

A key for an organization is having a way to manage the initiatives in the pipeline. From initial ideation through large scale corporate implementation, initiatives can be measured using a simple innovation accounting model. This provides strategy leaders and boards food for thought on strategic direction.

4. Collaboration

Collaborating with other organizations with aligned interests can help reduce risk, save money, and speed up the innovative process. When done well, the collaboration should create an extension of the value chain the organization participates in. Types of collaboration include:

  • Shared risk initiatives
  • Adjacent capability value chains
  • Best of breed offerings
  • Think Tank – Open Innovation Partnerships
  • Capital initiatives


The 4 C’s of innovation are the collective wisdom of dozens of organizations, hundreds of consultants, and an ongoing desire to find a way to scale the thinking behind innovative institutions. These principals apply to organizations of any industry and any size.

More in