Fostering a Culture of Innovation in 2023

Survey of engineers shows collaboration, flexibility and sense of ownership as critical factors in nurturing an innovation mindset and culture

Innovation is the one key factor that makes the difference between success and failure when a business starts out on an ambitious project to create something that has never been done before. A risk-taking attitude, as well as a leadership style based on respect, teamwork, accountability, and a clear long-term vision, are necessary for resolving complicated technological issues.

At Roblox, every leader prioritises building an innovative culture. We wanted to directly hear from the larger engineering community on the leadership styles and talents they value most as we develop the teams and employ the finest technical talent to innovate and usher in our ambitious vision of a 3D immersive platform connecting a billion people.

We asked questions on leadership, technology, the future of work, and innovation of 500 engineers from various career levels, including vice presidents, fellows, directors, managers, and principal engineers. All in an attempt to comprehend the engineers mentality and get a clear understanding of what matters to them both now and in the next year or years.

Many of the fascinating insights we discovered are relevant to the majority of engineering executives and companies. This article focuses on findings that are particular to leadership traits that encourage an innovative culture. The remaining portions of our poll, which focused on the engineering mentality, the future of work, and technology, will be released in January.

Building an Innovation Friendly Culture

  • One key finding from our poll is that, sometimes, a leader’s inaction has a greater influence on building an innovative culture than their actual actions. For instance, competition is often seen as a key motivator and a catalyst for more, better achievements. Our study demonstrates that competition has an adverse impact on innovation.

    Our poll found that engineers believe that competition stifles innovation:

    The least crucial quality for a C-suite executive to possess in order to promote an innovative culture is encouraging competition (14%)1.
    Additionally, young engineers and individual contributors (5%), who are still in the early stages of their careers, see fostering competition in a less favourable light.

    However, it shouldn’t be just up to the person to take the effort to acquire new abilities. The use of programmes that enable engineers to acquire new tools, programming languages, and abilities should be encouraged by leaders. When picking up new technological abilities, our survey respondents feel most inventive (61%), particularly those who are individual contributors (81%).

    Priority Leadership Characteristics

    Engineers identify “long term thinker” or “visionary” as the most crucial trait (37%) for building an innovative culture when it comes to assessing C-suite executives. Individual contributors (53%) who seek inspiration from their C-suite leadership place a higher priority on this area than do other senior (VP+) executives (33%), who place a lower priority on it.

    Engineers at all professional levels also place a high value on being trustworthy (35%), accepting responsibility (31%), and having the capacity to prioritise (31%). In contrast, traits that inhibit creativity include a lack of vision (43%), a lack of possibilities for development and advancement (42%) and a negative workplace culture (41%).

    One of our guiding principles at Roblox is accountability, which is shown through giving teams and people the freedom to experiment with ideas and take chances. In particular, internal teams inside the business are required to provide recommendations for strategies, and those teams are then expected to work with senior management to refine the plans. We also set out certain time in our calendar for innovation, such during our annual Hack Week event.

    A Look Ahead

    Overall, these survey findings give me and our leadership team hope since we already make a big effort to promote accountability and many of the other qualities that engineers believe are critical for promoting creativity.

    Innovation is a scarce resource that should be cherished, celebrated, and fostered. We don’t stand still at Roblox. As leaders, we’re already methodically considering all possible methods to extend, grow, and allow our teams to innovate so that they can carry out our goal.

    I really hope you find these suggestions useful, and I look forward to sharing more in the next year.

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