Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Can you Impose a Culture of Innovation

Practically you can not impose a culture of innovation, but definitely, you can influence and put the right innovation elements into your strategy and execution.

Culture is better defined by the "collective mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors of people in an organization.” There is no question that culture can make or break an organization. Nowadays, innovation becomes an important ingredient in business strategy, but how to cultivate the culture of innovation is perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing business leaders today. Can you impose a culture of innovation, or shall you build, cultivate, or foster it, and how? What are the key elements in fostering a culture of innovation?

The Cultural transformation may be the desired outcome, but it cannot be mandated--it must evolve: Engaging in the existing practices, Introducing the changes and reinforcing the changes. It requires shared vision plus innovative, committed and passionate leadership and a commitment to alignment and integration of people, processes, practices, and technology across the enterprise, including customer and vendor engagement. Each person wants and needs to know, understand and be willing to be a part of the transformation. C-levels have the vision and want to maximize creativity and innovation at all levels in the organization to grow their organization, realizing not all might wish to do so. As the change is being reinforced, other types of activities help the change take hold. The biggest reason most organizations are not more creative is that the vast majority of senior managers simply don't know how to get there. There is no one size fits all recipe. Hiring winners is an essential part of growth and being successful, but the real challenge is transforming the existing workgroups, departments, and facilities into creative and high performers.

Amplify small changes to make an impact on organizational culture. Senior managers would take a systemic look at how these 'good' managers affect change in the small groups. Those techniques could be applied corporate-wide for culture change; to increase involvement, creative problem solving, and innovative ideation. But the problem is senior managers often view small-group changes as an isolated effort, not a model for culture change within the organization, and lack of best practices to amplify its effect. When it comes right down to it, managers have a powerful impact on corporate culture. And most managers don't manage to maximize creativity and innovation, mostly due to constraints from above. One of the difficulties here is the use of the words "creative" and "innovative." They are drastically different. Creativity is the innate process to create new ideas. A new manager with corporate Change Management can influence people to become more creative, but innovation is more about how to transform creative ideas and achieve their business value, often in a systematic way. And innovative thinking is also different, it’s about looking at the world in a unique way. While you can train somebody to become more innovative or, at least, understand the innovative thinking. It takes time and generations of changes within a company to embrace fresh thinking and the new way to do things. Otherwise, there will always be roadblocks to these "new" ideas.

The change in culture starts at the top. If top leadership is not willing to change - it doesn't matter who they hire. This is very hard for existing leaders - they have been part of building the old culture. Culture change is not easy - it takes long term effort. Many companies do not have the courage. By adding a systems mindset - you can begin to change the culture. a systems mindset is integral to begin to change the culture. Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization still resonates and underlies effecting change. A learning organization is a group of people, human beings, how do you process the learning in change. If you are able to do that - how you duplicate this learning in the change process? You can never duplicate a change process without visionary leadership. In spite of that, the process will require a lot of good creative leadership and an innovation manager that has the courage to break a lot of rules and creativity to think out-of-box.

Practically you can not impose a culture of innovation, but definitely, you can influence and put the right innovation elements into your strategy and execution. Applying the framework to the specific organizational culture requires leadership, trust, time and process. There is no one-size-fits-all set of policies, programs, and structures as well, organizations have to keep exploring, experimenting and adjusting for fostering the culture of innovation.


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