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Values and Culture: Getting it Right is the Only Shot You Have at Innovation in Your Career Center

Every organization strives to be innovative these days – it’s become an imperative. Innovation is taught, written about in scholarly journals and lectured about. It’s on everyone’s minds. A Google search delivers nearly 50 million returns to the question “where does innovation come from?”

Where, indeed; and let’s face it -- higher education is much better at teaching innovation than implementing it.

The world of work has changed, and we must, in turn, change how we view our relationships with work. There may be no single better place to do so then at the turning point within which a student transitions into a career. It is for this very reason that we have provided the tips below.

For background, Gapingvoid Culture Design Group (GV) is a culture design consultancy that has developed new ways of creating great organizational cultures by aligning human engagement to organizational outcomes, with human-centered change design. A large part of GV’s culture integrations are designed with the creation of immersive environments through physical objects that reinforce best practices, including large art installations. The company’s installations can be seen at institutions such as University of Miami, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Notre Dame, in addition to companies such as AT&T, Microsoft, Roche and Zappos.

For anyone who follows GV, you already know that we stand for doing things differently, having a distinctive perspective and making a difference through unique and remarkable approaches to problem solving. People are often taken aback when they learn that almost all of the emotional, fun, visuals we create were 100% data driven and intentionally designed to nudge and reinforce behaviors. Fans of gapingvoid love sharing the work because people love sharing their beliefs. This can be a very powerful tool for engaging new belief systems, as well as earning engagement to spread word of mouth for your institution’s career center.

First, make innovation possible.

Our friend, Steve Clayton, Chief Storyteller at Microsoft, says that everyone should do one thing a year that may get them fired. What he means is that if you have an idea, and it is really aligned to the best interests of the organization, take action. Asking for permission, debating and getting consensus is really just the politically correct way of not taking action.

Risk taking is an essential part of innovation.

New ideas scare people. You should occasionally scare people (including yourself). Innovators have a certain fearlessness about them, and the faith that it will all work out in the end. Start by reframing what risk looks and feels like to everyone in your group. Getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable is a good way to think about it.


Change is your friend. Test new approaches. Wipe the slate clean and dream up what’s possible. If you have been doing something the same way for very long, tear it apart and rebuild it from the ground up.

Be a real thought leader.

The term ‘thought leader’ is thrown around these days to such an extent that it has lost it’s meaning. Leading means being ahead, doing things that other people haven’t thought of, or are too scared to do. Do that stuff, if you want to be a legit thought leader. Talking about the same list of best practices as everyone else and waiting for permission won’t drive innovation or make you a thought leader.

Foster curiosity.

This is one of my favorites. I cannot believe how much time people spend on Facebook when you could be asking the internet for the answer to literally any question you could possibly dream up. Social media is great, but building neurons is a much better use of your time, if you can stimulate curiosity in your group, then innovative solutions will follow.

Speaking of action, creating a real bias for action is essential. Innovation cannot thrive in an environment where action is discouraged. Where five sign-offs are required to do something and where punishment is dealt to those who take initiative. The truth is, things don’t always work out, but we need to embrace that in the right way to foster an innovative spirit.

And finally, change your lens toward everything you do. If you love what you do, and you view the entire world through the lens of your career center, then every experience from shopping on Amazon, buying a cup of coffee, to going to a grocery store, will give you ideas you can overlay on your career center. Ideas that will make things more efficient, enhance customer experience, delight employers, students, engage faculty. Whatever need you have, the solutions will come once you realize the answers to your toughest problems have already been solved by someone else in another industry.

We could go on, but our point was not to create a check list of ‘how to be more innovative’. What is essential is to understand that innovation is a byproduct of beliefs, values and of the culture you choose to build in your career center. You can deliberately design a place where people are naturally more innovative, or you can design a place where people seek approval, live in fear and are scared to step out of line.

The choice is yours, but if you choose to build the latter, then don’t look around wondering why your team isn’t coming up with the vibrant, rich and rewarding approaches and experiences that you really desire.

Gapingvoid​ Culture Design Group​ helps create more engaged organizations that consistently outperform their competitors, by designing a better and more meaningful culture. Our work is based on proven management science – CultureScience™. We use the data and insights to develop tools that create sustainable change at scale. We help shift mindset so your people find joy, meaning and connection in what they do. We give leaders the tools to build awesome organizations by aligning employees, customers and the external world. We deliver a real, human, emotional, immersive connection to work. ​Gapingvoid Culture Design Group has worked with some of the most influential companies in the world, including Microsoft, AT&T, Roche, Zappos and eBay and our visual work hangs on the walls of over 5,000 organizations around the world.

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