It\u2019s become a drinking game. Any time a conference keynote speaker says the word \u201cinnovation,\u201d you take a sip of beer. And any time he or she declares that a company that isn\u2019t innovative can\u2019t be competitive, you have to down a shot of tequila (lime and salt, optional).\nBut what\u2019s really required to create an innovation culture? Do digital-first companies like Google\u2014celebrated for its glasses, self-driving cars and other \u201cmoonshots\u201d \u2014 always have the edge? In my discussions with IT leaders I discovered common qualities that have made innovation thrive at companies like Google, Nordstrom, Johnson & Johnson and Lego.\n \nInnovation is about more than a big idea\n\nThese companies and others that have excelled at innovation share five common habits:\n1: Inclusiveness. The image of the innovation lab as a walled garden, populated by deep thinkers who have relinquished their day jobs in order to well, think deeply, is quickly becoming clich\u00e9. The reality is that innovation happens through a loose network of people both inside and outside a company\u2019s four walls. For example, Shell\u2019s GameChanger program encourages employees across divisions to submit new ideas, also inviting participation from partners and external entrepreneurs.\n2: Tolerance for conflict. Innovation can be complicated and political. Instead of the quiet think tank most people envision, the innovation lab is complete with aptly-named war-rooms, where people draw on glass walls and argue their own approaches. In the end more than one idea might make it to the proof-of-concept stage, where the battle might continue. Relationships can fray. There can be carnage. The winner is person with the best executable idea. The fact that the unapologetic entrepreneurs thrive in this climate of contention motivates companies to keep investing in it.\n3: An understanding of a deeper mission. It\u2019s easy to see why a company like \u00a0Eli Lilly or JPL would want to formalize innovation. But you don\u2019t need a bevy of scientists in order to fuel an innovation culture. Large-scale improvements and wholesale inventions can deepen customer relationships (Salesforce.com), make people more productive (Apple), and protect people who protect people (USAA). In these cases, innovation has become part of the company\u2019s mission and, by extension, its brand.\n4: The ability to sideline internal problems. The more time a company\u2019s leaders spend on organizational issues, product fixes, process improvements, problem employees and politics, the less time they have to set up environment to support innovation. Innovation invites creativity, collaboration, movement, space, materials, and yes, some strife. \u00a0\n5: A knack for spreading the word. Big ideas aren\u2019t enough. Companies need to nurture innovation by applying clear execution processes in order to create new business models or develop new products. Executives at innovative companies include innovation in their communications. They herald innovation successes, encourage employees to support the new product or service, and to join them in proselytizing its value. They need to talk to one another and to customers. Ironically diffusing an innovation both inside and outside of a company\u2019s four walls often works best using analog engagement methods, like face-to-face meetings and live demonstrations.\nNo, your company doesn\u2019t have to be born digital to cultivate a culture of innovation. You just need to have the discipline to look beyond the immediate horizon. And keep a nice, aged Anejo around just in case.