To the Point

How Can We Make This Work?

Cultivating a culture of innovation, regardless of your role.

If you read my column regularly, you know I talk a lot about the importance of innovation in the meetings industry.

We must constantly be looking for new ways to reinvent and refresh face-to-face and digital meetings in an ever-changing marketplace.

But I realize that wanting to innovate and actually innovating are two very different things. How then do we move from aspiration to execution? I can tell you that at PCMA, we’re fortunate that innovation goes hand in hand with our mission to educate meeting professionals. The risks we take with our face-to-face meetings and digital events actually benefit our members — meaning we evaluate our successes and failures so that we all learn together about what does or does not work, how we could tweak our experiments, and how we can improve on standard meeting practices.  

For that reason, innovation is ingrained in our thinking. We make it a point to hire innovative thinkers. We reward innovative ideas. We try our best to remove — or adjust, as need be — barriers to bringing innovative ideas to life. Our approach is more “How can we make this work?” than “That will never work, because….”

Indeed, it seems that in order for innovation to be successful, it must start at the top and permeate the entire organization. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey last year, strong visionary business leadership and having the right culture to foster and support innovation are tied as being the most important factors in successful innovation. Everyone from the CEO down to the intern must buy into the benefits of being inventive, and an organization must be nimble enough to allow new ideas to come to fruition. Let’s face it, overly bureaucratic decision-making processes can stifle creativity.

That said, leadership experts tend to agree that innovation is a process — and not something that can simply be achieved through an occasional brainstorming meeting. That process requires human and sometimes financial investment.

Finally, it may go without saying, but innovation works best when it has a job to do, such as achieving a strategic goal or resolving a challenge, according to David Magellan Horth, a creativity and innovation expert at the Center for Creative Leadership. In other words, don’t spin your organization’s wheels on innovation for innovation’s sake.

Want to learn more about unleashing creativity and cultivating a culture of innovation at your organization? Check out our complimentary PCMA Education Conference hybrid event on June 23 (rebroadcast on July 16). You can also find a variety of archived content on this topic from Convening Leaders, Education Conference, and other PCMA programs in the OnDemand Learning section of

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.