Saturday, August 18, 2012

Seven Cultural Habits to Harness Effective Business Innovation

“We must look at the lens through we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.”  ― Stephen R. Covey

From an innovation report released by Booz earlier this year, culture is key to innovation, as they surveyed almost 600 innovation leaders in companies around the world, large and small, in every major industry sector, Culture matters, enormously, Studies have shown again and again that there may be no more critical source of business success or failure than a company’s culture --it trumps strategy and leadership. Companies whose strategic goals are clear, and whose cultures strongly support those goals, possess a huge advantage, especially for the areas such as innovation.  

What is culture? Culture is how groups of people think and do things at organization. Culture is habit, culture is attitude, and culture is brand. The author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”,  Stephen R. Covey passed away last month, his book has been sold more than 25 millions of copies in different languages, though the book is more about individual self-improvement, the concept and philosophy and seven habits of essential can also help business improve organizational habit, to experience more successful innovation journey.

1.    Be Proactive

“Two people can see the same thing, disagree, and yet both be right. It's not logical; it's psychological.”     Stephen R. Covey

Being proactive means people in the organization appreciate creativity, not just be compliant for survival; they are encouraged to be proactively questioning, connecting, collaborating and solving problems creatively. Because at some lagging businesses with conservative or negative culture encourage employees to be steadfast to the point that they’d become risk-averse, tolerant of mediocrity, and suspicious of outside or new ideas.

For business leaders, it means they may push the new ideas proactively on how to leverage culture to drive innovation and increase business flexibility and agility, on the other side, they also cultivate the culture of “Pull”: proactively seek team feedback, deeply understand the potential business success factor and obstacles, and shape the culture which can harvest innovation.

2. Begin with the End in Mind

“We must look at the lens through we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.”  ― Stephen R. Covey

Innovation takes vision, vision may also help overcome culture inertia, as when everyone in the organization is collaborating to work towards the same goal; status quo, egos and silos no longer act as roadblocks,  Knowledge and creativity are unleashed to produce outcomes.

Begin with end in mind also means: innovation is the means to the end, not the end, the end is how to delight customers or improve employee satisfaction, with such noble goals in mind, the culture can become more resilient to adapt to changes, employees are easier to get buy in, and vision may also convey the good story telling to inspire culture of innovation. 

3.    Put First Things First

“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are or, as we are conditioned to see it.” ― Stephen R. Covey

Culture is also about how to focus, focus on a few things matter for the business, and  the business also has capabilities to do better than competitors, Isn't that what innovation is all about: do it better, differentiate yourself from your competition, run, grow and transform the business. The other thing to consider is it's not just about technology,  it's about people, the partnerships, the process, and capability.

Put First Things First also means prioritizing, prioritizing the business goals which are most critical to your strategy; prioritizing the project investments which can help improve your key capabilities; prioritizing also means to follow 80/20 rule: to put 80% of resources into 20% activities which can produce the best business results; from change management perspective: emphasizing just a few will allow you to move the needle on culture change much more easily: such as selecting a few key behaviors to change, rather than trying to create a completely different culture overnight.

 4.    Think Win-Win

“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”  ― Stephen R. Covey

Culture is also about attitude, mutual trust is a good attitude to shape culture of innovation, to build up win-win relationship between employees and organization, business and customers; More specifically, it’s about building up the culture of "Reward success AND failure" - the logic here is that you reward people for trying new actions, and doubly reward them for successes. If you punish failure, you shut down innovation immediately.

Well, innovation is more about a process than a disruptive, enchanting new product these days. We need to tolerate the failure, also make the effort on a "lessons learned" exercise to share. And, this entire innovation process area needs some oversight to make it not be a major business disruption. There are systematic ways to manage these actions effectively and to benefit business for long term. 


5.    Empathy-Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

“Treat them all the same by treating them differently.” ― Stephen R. Covey,

Business leaders may think ideally that employees are paid to make a difference, the reality is that in many organizations, employees are trained to be compliance on the work being told to do, never to ask “why” or think independently, as employees’ creativity is not evaluated fairly in business’s talent agenda.

Empathy means business leaders and talent managers need deeply understand the value, the motivation and the habits of employees, and take customized talent solution to encourage innovative behaviors: as most of creative ideas or solutions will usually come from  the collective knowledge and experiences of the employees and the customers, not from the most powerful person or the smartest guy/gal in the room. And culture will be shaped by the majority of people in the organization.

6.    Synergize

“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).”   
-- Stephen R. Covey

The creative team is usually composed of all sorts of talents, with heterogeneous cognizance, strength and skills, especially those roadrunner people who want to understand the whole game, the whole business — not just their job; people who think like business people and owners, people who shows curiosity to ask why — not like narrowly focused employees who follow rules and crave order only.  

The culture as habit here will harness the intersection of collective knowledge, wisdom,  and aspiration, synergize creative disruption, enhance interdependent, collaborative and even codependent culture, and channel such energy, enthusiasm, and ideas.

 7.    Sharpen the Saw

“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”   ― Stephen R. Cove

The culture is a habit, the good habit is also an attitude, one may need to take most of the time to sharpen the saws, such as prepare the team, understand the problem, get the right tool ready before jumping in approaching solutions or drawing conclusions.

  However, sharpening the saw is means to the end, not the end. Some businesses misunderstand the innovation purpose, may think innovation is implementing the latest and greatest technology, rather than using advances in technology or existing technology differently to provide innovative solutions for business now and in the future.

Like individual’s habit, cultural habit is hard to change, but it’s changeable, business leaders can approach changing an organization’s culture evolutionarily or disruptively, below are ten contemporary business cultures to catalyze innovation and drive business transformation.
1) Customer-Centric Culture
2) Analytics-Based Culture
3) Design Thinking Culture
4) Diversity-Enhanced Culture
5) Learning-Enabled Culture
6) Crowd-Sourcing Culture
7) Self-Managed Culture
8) Innovation-Amplified Culture
(9) Risk-Awareness & Tolerance Culture
(10) Cross-functional Collaborative Culture

2 comments:

I think that you need to learn more about Business Innovation and how you can equip yourself with the knowledge to succeed on Business Innovation and hundreds of other essential business management techniques.
You can find a lot of resources both online and offline. Good luck!

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