Innovation and a Culture of Trust

Published October 20, 2020
“Being a creative leader means ensuring that everyone in the organization is playing to their creative strengths and feels that their contribution is valued as part of the overall performance of the organization.” – Ken Robinson, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative

In a trust-laden culture, new ideas and innovations can be shaped, pushed back on, clarified, questioned and reworked to be made even better, but only if the originator of the idea feels safe and affirmed in who they are and their place in the organization.

Organizations with a culture of trust tend to encourage intra-preneurship, creating an entrepreneurial culture inside the company, launching new ideas and efforts within the parameters of the corporate vision and values. That means the organization has to give some space for trying things that may or may not succeed or pay off in the typical ways.

Many years ago when I was pastoring, a vital ministry for special needs children was developed in our family ministries area simply because some key volunteer leaders had personal experience with the need and were given permission to explore what it could look like, eventually turning into a successful ministry called BridgeBuilders. In many ways, BridgeBuilders then led to another initiative and a powerful example of intrapreneurship.

Harmony was on our church staff. Growing up, she had been a Christian kid, active and well-liked. In high school, Harmony contracted a viral disease and ended up having nearly twenty surgeries to remove tumors in her neck, missing over two-hundred days of school. At one point, the nerves in her face stopped working correctly and she found herself slurring her words, drooling in a stroke-like condition. Imagine your impressionable high school years and the unique cruelty of school kids.

Because she missed so much school, she was put in what was called the “slow classes” back then. During that experience, she felt as though God whispered to her, “Don’t forget this time.”

Harmony eventually recovered, but years later she brought an intrapreneurial idea to our team. She suggested that our church throw a free party for adults with special needs—specifically a prom. (A prom is a serious event for high school kids in America: a big, final dance when they graduate.) This prom would be designed especially for special needs adults who, more than likely, were never invited to a prom. She mobilized hundreds of volunteers. The first prom drew over eight hundred special needs adults. We repeated it for several years.

There were calculated risks with the prom, including significant safety issues, and the potential of being a mistake in terms of resources and return. It wasn’t.

Within a culture of trust, intrapreneurship can yield surprising results and release leaders into new and rewarding endeavors. When we create this kind of culture, we release fresh energy, creativity and passion throughout the organization.

So, whether you’re part of a corporation, a non-profit, a church or a department within any of those, here’s a question all leaders need to wrestle with:

How am I encouraging intra-preneurship in my organization or team?

About the Author
Dave Workman

Dave Workman


Elemental Churches

Dave Workman is president of Elemental Churches, a leadership development group devoted to helping churches and nonprofits become healthier and more effective. Dave was instrumental in the growth of the Vineyard Cincinnati mega-church from its inception and served as senior pastor for thirteen years. He spearheaded initiatives including the groundbreaking Healing Center—a multimillion-dollar facility offering forty different services to holistically meet the needs of thousands of resource-challenged people every month—and the H20 Nigeria Project, drilling over one hundred water wells. Dave regularly speaks on leadership development and building outward-focused churches nationally and internationally. He is the author of Elemental Leaders: Four Essentials Every Leader Needs…And Every Church Must Have and The Outward-Focused Life: Becoming a Servant in a Serve-Me World. Dave and his wife Anita live in Cincinnati, Ohio.