Want to Spark Innovation? It’ll Only Happen if You Have a Culture of Openness


Professor Stewart Thornhill, on the Manager Tools podcast, explains how to make sharing new ideas a part of the routine.

Why is it some companies seem to have employees who share great ideas and others don’t? Michigan Ross Professor Stewart Thornhill says it’s less about people having or not having ideas, and more about the company’s culture.

In this Manager Tools podcast, Thornhill says it takes a culture of openness to really foster employee innovation.

“It’s not about people being more innovative, it’s helping people who have lots of ideas be willing to share them,” says Thornhill, executive director of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at Ross. “They have a choice of sharing that idea or filing it away and doing nothing with it. What is it about some organizations and some companies that makes it not only possible but normal for these ideas to make it into the mainstream? In other organizations it stays inside the heads of employees and never gets shared.”

For one, it’s important to make sure the benefits of new ideas are shared. If it just creates more work for some people, it’ll foster resentment and nobody will share ideas. Also, it helps if the company and employees have a shared vision so everyone can see how innovation contributes to the larger goal.

Thornhill also discusses entrepreneurship and the value of mid-career programs like the Executive MBA.


Media Contact: michiganrosspr@umich.edu

Ross Thought In Action By Stewart Thornhill
Stewart Thornhill

Stewart Thornhill

  • Executive Director, Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies
  • Eugene Applebaum Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies
  • Professor of Business Administration