How to build a culture of innovation - four professionals sitting around a table discussing how to build a culture of innovation.
How to Build a Culture of Innovation
Work With AJ Kulatunga

Written by AJ Kulatunga

May 31, 2023

Today we find ourselves in a new era of business where Leaders have to grapple with rapidly advancing technology, changes in consumer behaviour and managing a multi-generational workforce. As if that wasn’t enough, on top of all of that, they have to contend with a global economic slowdown. While these changes disrupt business as usual, a more useful way of thinking about them is viewing them as opportunities to establish a new competitive advantage and build business resilience against future uncertainty. 

Unlocking the new advantages of this era begins by building a culture of innovation and creativity at work. While many organisations consider themselves innovative, they are missing the opportunity to activate everyday innovation through their workforce. By empowering people to think differently about challenges and helping them to solve problems faster, Leaders create a better customer and stakeholder experience. This is crucial for both business growth and talent attraction to support it.

Heart Centered Innovation™ is the best methodology to help you achieve this goal. Working through the four pillars: Care, Commit, Create and Connect, allows teams to activate human creativity, solve problems quicker, and ensures your company moves faster at the speed of opportunity.

Exploring Heart Centered Innovation™

Let’s walk through each of the pillars so you can see how to activate a culture of innovation and creativity at work.

The Care Pillar

The framework begins with the “Care” pillar because, if people don’t care, nothing happens anywhere. Before the global pandemic, we wanted our leaders to empathise with us, to genuinely take the time to understand who we are and where we are coming from. But after all the pain and suffering we went through, we now want them to go beyond empathy and actually care about us.

Put it this way, if you were sick, would you want someone to say “Oh that’s not good, I hope you feel better soon,” … or make you some delicious warm soup? It’s that level of kindness and care that we so desperately need in society today. When we genuinely care and feel cared for by others, we naturally seek a deeper understanding of the problems we encounter before we attempt to solve them. 

The “Care” pillar can be used in a couple of different ways depending on what you are trying to achieve. If you already have a challenge to solve, place that into the centre of the model, over the heart, and get people on board who genuinely care about solving that challenge. Also, explore how you can get other people to care just as much about the same issue and bring them on board to work on it.

If you don’t already have a challenge in mind, bring people together and use the Care pillar as a discussion point to explore what people care about and uncover a challenge to work on together.

The Commit Pillar

Too often we see people inside organisations that are “involved” in projects but not really committed to their outcomes. The difference is best understood through the story of bacon and eggs. The chicken is involved, but the pig is fully committed.

We want people to be committed to achieving outcomes otherwise it becomes a meaningless box-ticking exercise. Having said that, we also don’t want people to give up their lives like the pig. This is why it’s so important to activate the “Care” pillar first because we burn out when we commit to things we don’t care about. We want people to genuinely care and feel cared for, enough to commit their time and energy to address these problems effectively. Remember, if people don’t care, nothing happens anywhere.

Getting people committed is about helping them look through their current priorities and establishing what their commitment might look like to solve this challenge. What are they willing to do? What aren’t they willing to do? What time do they actually have to bring their full selves to solving this challenge? The goal here is scheduled commitment and accountability.

The Create Pillar

Once we have people who care and are committed to solving the issue, then we activate the third pillar, “Create”. This is where many organisations go horribly wrong because whenever an issue arises, they quickly rush to create a solution. The problem with this approach is that whatever is created might not be a well-thought-out solution to the issue and might attract resistance during implementation. There are too many “brilliant” ideas in the world that end up being useless and a waste of time, money and energy. These could have been avoided if they were created with genuine care and commitment to really understand the nuances of the problem in the first place. 

For example, during the global pandemic in 2020, the Australian Government proudly launched the “COVIDSafe App” to track the spread of Covid-19 throughout the community more effectively than manual contact tracers. Unfortunately, not many people were using it the way they thought they would and this exposed the technical limitations of the app. It only identified 17 positive cases that contact tracers were not already aware of through manual processes. The $14 million dollar app was deemed a complete failure and officially scrapped in August 2022.

To come up with solutions, you can use a variety of techniques such as brainstorming, design thinking, cause and effect etc. Whatever methods you use, ensure that you leverage the mindsets and experiences of people working on the challenge to give you the widest possible perspective on the nuances of the problem. Also, make sure you test the solution out as thoroughly as possible to ensure it really is a proper solution to the problem. 

The Connect Pillar

The last pillar is “Connect”. A brilliant, well-thought-out solution is useless until it is embraced. Whatever is created needs to be connected to others in a way that gets them to care about it. Under this pillar, we use strategic storytelling to bring people along on the journey and reduce resistance to change.

To activate this pillar, identify the relevant stakeholders that will benefit from the solution. Think about what they would need to hear to be able to make them care about the solution. Where people fail the most in this area is creating a “one size fits all” story. Humans are similar in many ways but we are all different in our own unique ways. Make sure you craft multiple stories that appeal to different lenses. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

In teaching Heart Centered Innovation™ to teams, there is little that goes wrong during the sessions. The framework is easy to understand and implement because it activates people’s primal instincts to collaborate, create and communicate, which are often stifled inside formally structured hierarchies. 

The biggest challenge I see affecting the benefits of the model is complacency. After a few successful wins, teams tend to take shortcuts and not use the full framework, or not use it consistently for every challenge. Working your way through each of the four pillars gives innovation the best possible chance of success and really builds a culture of innovation and creativity to bulletproof your business against future uncertainty. 

Get Started

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first Google search, but in this case, simply visit  and download “Re-Imagining Innovation”, the guide to Heart Centered Innovation™ to share with your team. You can also download a printable handout of the model here.

Heart Centered Innovation will make your people come alive and feel like they can actually be a part of a bigger-picture success story. This is crucial to help achieve long-term strategic goals. 

So with that in mind, lead boldly into the future and make tomorrow better than today!


About The Author

AJ Kulatunga is an award winning business strategist and global keynote speaker who specialises in activating innovation and entrepreneurial behaviours for corporate organisations and industry associations. His presentations and programs are used by Senior Leaders to navigate uncertainty and reduce resistance to change. Follow AJ on LinkedIN or Twitter.

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