Create | Innovate | Grow
Corporate culture is a commonly used term that often means different things to different people. In some cases it may be considered as nothing more than a buzz word. Make no mistake, corporate culture plays an incredibly significant role in every business. And no more so when it is a culture of innovation. For candidates interviewing at a company, culture can be construed as the corporate ‘brand’. The perception of the type of culture existing in the business can make the difference between a talented candidate choosing one employer over another.
In a generic sense, corporate culture is a company’s shared values, attitudes, standards and beliefs. On the inside of the business, culture ‘lives’ in the goals, strategies, structure, approach and behaviors exhibited by its leaders.
Externally, culture is displayed by the character or overall ‘personality’ of the company. One of the most telling examples of culture is how employees and management interact with each other, how an organization handles outside business transactions and the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. Astute candidates, waiting in reception to be interviewed, instinctively recognize, feel or sense culture.
Corporate culture is an incredibly essential ‘brand’ component.
Corporate culture; at the finer level
At a low-level, the overall corporate culture really combines two factors –
- Organizational Culture evolves and develops as beliefs, customs and attitudes emerge, become understood and ultimately become accepted as ‘the way it is’. This ‘shared system’ is most often recognized in late-term start-ups and well established organizations.
- Organizational Climate tends to be more about the ‘prevailing influences or environmental conditions’ within a company. A climate can be identified and clearly specified by practices, expectations and acknowledgement.
Examples of an organizational climate may be:
- Service Culture
- Sales Culture
- Product Culture
- Process / Operations Culture
- Conservative or Risk Adverse Culture
- Interpersonal / Social Culture
- Future focused / Creative thinking / Innovative Culture
Innovation doesn’t just happen. Cultivate a culture of collaboration and co-creation to get there.
Innovation; as a corporate culture
It is no secret that businesses must constantly look ahead if they want to remain viable in the modern world. Wouldn’t it be catastrophic to drive a car by watching the rear view mirror? Of course, the same applies in business. Complacency is the sure killer of companies.
Innovation is what keeps a business alive, dynamic and, most importantly, sustainable. Failure to keep current and forward thinking runs the risk of losing ground to competitors, losing key staff, becoming inefficient and left behind. Organizations that do not innovate effectively may be destroyed by those who do.
Innovation is the key differentiator between market leaders and their rivals.
Sustaining a culture of innovation
Sustaining innovation does not create new markets, but it definitely supports the evolution of existing ones. This form of innovation is cultural. It involves listening to the needs of the business, its customers and the existing market in an effort to create and enhance products that will satisfy predicted needs for the future.
Sustaining innovation is typically innovations in technology. It is no longer the speed of business that creates the greatest challenges. It’s the speed of change or disruption that severely assaults business models. Attacks, beatings, muggings and strikes on businesses are happening in ways no one would have ever predicted – even 15 years ago. The paradigm is constantly shifting and the new business model has to be repurpose and redefinition in order to remain sustainable.
Candidates get really excited when they hear a company has a culture based on creative thinking and innovation that offers them the opportunity to participate in building the future. Job security is one thing, but working in a dynamic environment where one is encouraged to contribute is an incredible motivator.
Innovation plays a significant role in the ultimate success or failure of a business.
A culture of innovation has become critical
The future is not like the past, so building a common language of innovation has a tremendous impact on the future of the business. What does it take to create and nurture a culture that is inventive, creative, dynamic and evolving? Innovation cannot be forced and it doesn’t happen by accident. The good news is it can be developed.
Companies with purposely created and defined cultures are the businesses that support innovation. These companies are more customer-focussed, value-driven and strategic than their counterparts. When the right processes are in place, and a collaborative atmosphere exists, the environment is created where great ideas are much more likely to surface and take off.
A recent IBM global study concluded that when a company’s culture is unsupportive there is no greater obstacle to innovation.
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”
~ John Maynard Keynes, Keynesian Economics, founder of the school of economic thought
People; creators of innovation
Welcome to innovation management. Innovation is about the people; encouraging them to generate and develop ideas. A strong culture of innovation happens when teams rally together.
Too often people are treated as commodities; interchangeable and viewed as all having the same characteristics and aptitudes. Putting the right people in the right roles exploits and develops their creativity. It encourages true innovation and results in increased capacity.
When people at all levels in the organization become engaged as a group, the engine to drive innovation is fired up. Team huddles, company mingles, brainstorming afternoons and/or some other form of interactive ‘play’ encourage leading questions, fresh thoughts, new ideas and stronger employee engagement.
New ways of performing tasks, developing new products, services and directions happens when there is a free flow of information and ideas moving up, down and across the organization.
Innovation is never the result of a lone genius. Innovation develops over time using a highly collaborative, trusting, open and supportive process.
“Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.”
~Navy SEAL Team
Innovation; the driver of value
Growth in business today is driven by innovation. That innovation has created technological change and advancements. Technology is now challenging every industry, and every business, from the way people shop, become educated, consume information to the way governments conduct business.
Technology has taken some of the cost out of running a business. It has also forced the restructuring of businesses, encouraged investment in new businesses and it has driven process improvement, digital enablement and redesigned distribution channels.
Innovation; embedded in the culture
When management actions, practices and expectations support a culture of innovation, individuals and teams get onboard with the same values. Successful leaders treat innovation as ‘something we do here’ – it’s embedded in everyone’s day to day job. It is their commitment to building a culture of innovation.
In 2009 a study in the UK was published in the Journal of Marketing that examined 759 companies across 17 countries. The study was focused on looking for the factors that predicted whether a particular firm would innovate. It was found that although the degree of innovation was influenced by external factors such as the local culture, government, and supply of labor and capital, the most important driver was internal corporate culture.
Findings; culture of innovation within the business
- 2010 study of 1,500 CEOs indicated that leaders rank creativity as the #1 leadership attribute needed for prosperity
- Over the last 50 years, the average lifespan of a company on the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 has dropped from 61 years to 18 years and is forecasted to shrink further in the future
- Executives cited ‘promoting continuous innovation’ as the most difficult goal for their company to get right.
- 84% of approximately 2,200 executives agree that their organization’s culture is critical to business success
- 96% of respondents state some change is needed to their corporate culture, and 51% think their culture requires a major overhaul
- According to a 2008 study by Harvard University, there is a direct correlation between people who have the ability to call their own shots and the value of their creative output
Talented people, in the right kind of culture, have better ideas, execute those ideas better – and even develop other people better.
Establishing a baseline for what innovation is in your organization is the first and most important building block in a sustainable innovative foundation.
- Encourage employees to attend events, training and networking opportunities
- Build a framework and a methodology that supports and encourages innovation
- Invest necessary financial and human resources to enable innovation projects to emerge
- Reinforce new norms and values with incentives and rewards – including promotions
- Be flexible, open to new ideas and accept risk as a partner in the business
- Reinforce the culture when onboarding every new employee
Cultural change always comes last, not first. It’s not enough to talk about innovation or to invest in trying to come up with new products and services. It requires organizations to fully commit to putting the subject of innovation on the table.
A very worthwhile look at The Innovative Culture of 3M