Sustaining Innovation


Light (1998), “building an innovative organization involves more than just lowering barriers and debunking myths.  The absence of obstacles and myths is not the presence of innovation but the possibility” (pg. 244).  The purpose of innovation is to address the challenges and changes that organizations are facing.

In facing change, organizations need to be proactive in planning and redefining the mission and purpose of the organization.  Light (1998), argues that organizations can become innovative as needs come up, but if there is no real purpose “they move from fad to fad with ease, jumping for the latest bait, be it new funding stream or an awards” (pg. 244).  When this happens, it is clear that the organization has not defined its purpose and is making decisions for the sole purpose of staying funded.

To sustain innovation Light (1998) presents four core values: trust, honesty, rigor, and faith.

“Asking about the mission is utterly useless if the organization is not honest about answers. Pushing authority downward is a shallow gesture if the organization does not trust its people. Measuring performance is a waste of time if the organization does not do so with rigor. And successfully challenging the prevailing wisdom without faith in the possibility of success is impossible” (Light, 1998, pg. 244).

For innovation to be a functional tool there needs to be a level of commitment and integrity on behalf of the leadership and its employees, for it to become part of the organizational culture.  In addition to integrity and determination, the organization needs to set forth a realistic strategic plan that supports the development of the mission and vision.

Purposefulness is the key ingredient when creating a culture of innovation. Innovation is a great tool to address changes and challenges. Remember that change happens quite frequently and living as an innovative organization requires a significant amount of planning, focus, knowledge acquisition and remaining true to the mission and organizational goals.

Light, Paul C., Sustaining Innovation: Creating Nonprofit and Government Organizations That Innovate Naturally, Jossey-Bass A Wiley Company, San Francisco, CA, 1998.



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