Pillars of innovation

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

— Alan Kay

Innovation is very much like nature itself. Like the seedlings in a garden, ideas must be nurtured and cared for in order to develop into successful innovation projects. Here, the soil condition is the basic foundation for whether something new can emerge. But if planted in a barren environment, chances are dim, even for the best ideas to grow strong. More than anything else, ideas require fertile soil to prosper. Which composition is required for a ground to be fertile or what factors are necessary or beneficial to propel an idea beyond the tipping point?

Success factors for innovation

ROOM FOR IDEAS defines three pillars as supporting structure for successful innovation. Innovation infrastructure is the most obvious one, as it includes visible, known and therefore obvious factors. The other two pillars for successful innovation, innovation mindset and innovation competencies, are often regarded insufficiently. However, they are at least as important and fundamental as the first one, if not more. Without an innovative mindset, even the best ideas will fail, no matter how good the infrastructure. The idea, like a seedling in a garden, will wither and fail because of the encrusted structures. The third pillar, innovation competencies, tackles specific skills innovators should either have, develop or understand that are valuable for innovation.

The following catalogues do not claim to be exhaustive. They are rather meant to serve as an orientation to check one’s own garden and its soil and atmosphere and represent the most important basic foundations for successful innovation processes. We recommend that you always keep two things in mind at the same time:


Be agile in the adaptation of projects and processes. Regular checks and retrospectives are used to decide if things are still on track or whether the framework conditions have changed in such a way that new paths have to be taken.


Be transparent in every aspect. We are convinced that transparent communication throughout the innovation process is crucial to whether innovation projects end successfully or fizzle out.   

Three pillars for a successful innovation journey


Innovation mindset


Innovation competencies


Innovation infrastructure

  • Knowledge and expertise  (related to skills, topic, economy, sectors, science,… )
  • Information, media, tools, storage, support
  • Networks or connectedness  (proximity & distance-small-world networks)
  • Capital and markets
  • by senior management
  • by Human Resources Development (HRD) strategies
  • through cross-functional teams with the effect on the speed of diffusion

Basic fundamentals must be met

The contents of required basics differ between individual innovators, startups, and corporate teams. Their importance also varies during the different phases of the innovation process. Awareness of these fundamentals and understanding how to orchestrate them build the ground for flourishing and fruitful ideas.

If the three pillars of successful innovation are established and stabilised, an innovation culture is being created. It defines the fundamental mindset of innovators, teams, and organizations, is supported and promoted by leadership and management, and describes an atmosphere that contains enough oxygen for high performance.

Besides meeting the fundamentals it is paramount to understand that the aspect of failure is an integral part of innovation. Therefore, please also take a closer look at the killers of innovation!