The 4 Cornerstones Of Business Innovation

The 4 Cornerstones Of Business Innovation

The 4 Cornerstones Of Business Innovation


After so many years of research and reasoning on the creativity and innovation topic, we came to several conclusions. Thus, these are the cornerstones * of the integral theory of innovation as presented also in The Leadership Spark. These 4 fundamental pieces are to be found under the companies aiming at a continuous and disruptive business innovation.

The 4 cornerstones

1st cornerstone: A Great Answer To ‘Why?’ (the upper-left quadrant)

To innovate, people need a higher purpose, a bigger answer to their ‘why?’ question. Bigger and higher than their lives. A powerful inner ‘why’ gives rise to an extraordinary achievement level within each individual. It releases the entire creative potential of the human being. It is the one thing that really moves the world and human civilization, propelling them towards progress. Children have a natural and innocent way of perceiving the world, where anything seems possible. This is why their natural association with concepts, objects, and information is surprising. Human imagination ends when we have the answers to all the ‘Why’ questions. It starts again when the ‘Why Not’ question arises.

As you can see, the 1st cornerstone refers to a personal intent to solve a problem. The harder the problem, the more passion and hard work people will put into it.

An example

The end of business innovation is when the company’s employees are coming for work to have a regular paycheck. Let’s watch Elon Musk and his incredible team witnessing the historic landing of a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral:

These crazy guys are moved beyond their petty lives by their extraordinary attempt. Companies replicating this kind of magnitude of their values and mission, gain access to the potential of their employees. And you do not have to land anything on Mars to have a bigger ‘why?’. You just have to find the essence, the greatest answer to the ‘why are we coming for work?’ question. Then, hire the right employees. Hire the ones showing a higher interest in life, the open-minded (not narrow-minded), the ones aiming at a higher purpose in life. People come in different shapes, sizes and levels of consciousness (see David Hawkins, Ken Wilber, spiral dynamics or alike theories).

2nd cornerstone: Cascading Great Answers (the lower-right quadrant)

A company, through its managers and shareholders, has to ensure a constant cascade of the ‘why?’ answers to the minds and hearts of the employees. The leadership of any company has to create a framework where these answers are not just hanged on walls under the form of ‘mission statements’ or ‘value chains’.

According to Gallup and other global public opinion polling institutes, there is a sharp worldwide decline in the commitment of employees from all types of organizations. The inertia of organizations, which are conglomerates, is greater than that of people. Individuals ‘wake up’ faster than organizations, which are, afterward, just a result of people’s wish to organize (or the delegation of this wish to the leaders).

People’s level of consciousness is today increasing considerably because the technical process leads to clarification about the meaning of life, about the true reality of the world and of the universe, about the human body and about our planet, and the crazy rhythm of the world in recent years. What is already obvious to people at an individual level, is not obvious to ‘organisations’, which have endemic systemic inertia. The bigger the organization, the greater the inertia. Holacratic and teal organizations of today and tomorrow seem to place this cornerstone at the right corner.


Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a dream created and offered people this kind of framework, as did Mahatma Gandhi’s fight for freedom and Ricardo Semler’s or Chris Rufer’s vision. Gore’s culture (Gore-Tex) is based on the ‘belief in the person to do what’s right for the company’. At its core lies the ‘freedom for associates to achieve their own goal by directing their efforts to the success of the corporation, to take action, to come up with ideas, to make mistakes as part of the creative process’ (Bill Gore cited by Gary Hammel in ‘W.L.Gore: An Innovation Democracy’, from The Future of Management, Harvard Business School Press, 2007, p.117).

Semler says that ‘the purpose of work is not to make money. The purpose of work is to make the workers, whether working stiffs or top executives, feel good about life’ (Ricardo Semler, ‘Maverick’, Business Plus, 1995, p.290).

Watch this documentary on Ricardo Semler’s vision of corporate happiness.


3rd cornerstone: Tools (the upper-right quadrant)

You have the open-minded, higher-purpose-aiming people. They are aligned with your constantly cascaded higher purpose of the company. Seems like a good match but not enough to fire (pun intended) any spark, though. You need some tools to build this beautiful architecture of continuous business innovation. And there are individual tools and collective tools that you may deploy.

The individual tools refer to what and how people do each day at work. Are they acting regularly or are they surprised? Are their senses fed up sensing the same input or is their enough novelty to elicit new perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and deeds?

A company has to give such kind of individual tools for the employees to solve their daily routine. This way, the routine becomes something new each day. In my book, The Leadership Spark I offer almost 50 ways to trigger individual and collective creativity.

There are theories stating that this ‘cornerstone’ is the main reason some companies innovate like crazy while others stagnate like hell. It is said that a trendy workplace full of toys, gizmos and such would increase chances for creativity. But this is not entirely true. This single cornerstone unites only 2 walls of the whole ‘building’ which a company has to be. Still, without a guiding, overarching, important answer to the ‘why?’ question, there is no chance to real, continuous and disruptive innovation.

An example

Creativity techniques are the most important tools are in the category. You may find out that the people do what they are accustomed to do, anyway, even if you have all the necessary gizmos in place. Anyone needs a boost in terms of thinking fashion from time to time. Otherwise, we’ll end up coming up with the same solutions to different problems.

Creativity techniques are ways the most innovative humans used to create long-lasting artistic or scientific pieces on Earth. A manual of “creative problem solving” to be used in strategic meetings might be such a solution.

Have this example: Adobe (Red) Kickbox.


4th cornerstone: Sharing (the lower-left quadrant)

If we consider creativity from this, cultural point of view, the main idea is that of cross-pollination of ideas. “Let ideas have sex” mantra is at work here. Or, better said, ‘let ideas make babies’.

The more our ideas come in contact with other people’s ideas, the more likely it is that new ideas will be born.

Cultural differences mean different memes of certain norms, traditions, symbols, myths, mindsets of people and so on. The creativity of groups and of working teams operates as a ‘collaborative emergence’ (R. Keith Sawyer). In the case of jazz, theatrical improvisation or children’s play creativity is the result of cultural collaboration. It has a striking resemblance to the creativity within the organizational structure of management and working teams. The key rules at work during a show of theatrical improvisation are ‘yes, and…’ and listening at a deep level while suspending one’s own agenda. These two main rules make the actors seem empathic or even telepathic and create beautiful masterpieces.


SETI@home (the distributed computing project); Linux operating system; Wikipedia; Uber taxi services; the mountain bike; Rap music; We Are Smarter Than Me (a collectively written book on collective intelligence); Sugar CRM; SMS (texting), telephony,;;; the 2008 XLI Super Bowl ad; the creation of the 787 Dreamliner; Kickstarter; The Oxford English Dictionary. These are few examples of the new dictionary of work: future ‘cloud labor’, ‘cloud computing’, ‘crowdsourcing’, ‘crowdfunding’, ‘distributed knowledge’, ‘open innovation’ and ‘equity crowd investment’.

The organizations of the future have to take on the risk of accepting that employees’ ideas may lead to different things than the intended ones. 

Here’s a good example of what theatrical improvisation is. Just think of such a type of deep listening and collaboration taking place in a company.



Open technology; the dissemination of power from nodes to a network; companies which access ecosystems and not resources; artificially intelligent ads which self-create themselves; and self-organizing traffic lights – all of these are expressions of the falling of boundaries.

Apparently, nature does not operate in opposites. Really, it comes united, but we set boundaries. In fact, we set the good apart from the evil, God from Satan, beautiful from ugly, me from you. ‘Nature doesn’t grow true frogs and false frogs, nor moral trees and immoral trees, nor right oceans and wrong oceans’ (Ken Wilber, 2001b, p.16).’ We are the ones who cause these boundaries to exist.

My theory on integral innovation posits the inclusion of all creativity and innovation theories into a comprising, integral one. For the benefit of the human race.

*cor•ner•stone (ˈkɔr nərˌstoʊn) 

1. stone uniting two masonry walls at an intersection.
2. stone representing the nominal starting place in the construction of a monumental building, usu. carved with the date.
3. something that is essential or basic.
4. the foundation on which something is constructed or developed.
[1250–1300] Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.






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