The importance of culture in Innovation

Change Management

People and organizations are creatures of habit, and changing habits is much harder than changing structures or systems. For this reason, it is crucial to highlight the importance of culture in innovation.

“That’s why a man’s fortunes may change: because the times change, but he does not change his approach” Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527). The Prince.

Most change initiatives continue to focus almost exclusively on the operational and technical side and too often they ignore the human or behavioral side of change.

If you have ever tried to make changes or implement improvement initiatives in an unreceptive culture, you know it is like trying to swim against the current: you put a lot of effort but don’t make much forward progress.

The importance of aligning strategy and culture was stated well in a Business Week article:

“A corporation’s culture can be its greatest strength when it is consistent with its strategies. But a culture that prevents a company from meeting competitive threats, or from adapting to changing economic or social environments, can lead to the company’s stagnation and ultimate demise” – Business Week

In their book “Winning Teams Winning Cultures”, Larry Senn and Jim Hart, respectively Chairman and President (and CEO) of Senn Delaney explain why a team made up of highly competent, knowledgeable and committed leaders can still be ineffective, or why two companies in the same industry, with similar strategies, equipment and pricing achieve such different results.

What are our main cultural barriers to enable a culture of innovation? Here some example:

  • Internal competition between business units and functions -“we-they” attitudes;
  • lack of agility or ability to quickly adapt;
  • hierarchical top-down tendencies and boss-driven leadership style
  • bureaucratic tendencies and lack of innovation
  • an “observer-critic” culture that kills new ideas
  • Entitlement mindset and poor empowerment
  • Lack of accountability
  • Conflict avoidance and polite, but passive-aggressive, behaviors

The importance of culture is one of the key topics of our New Product Development Program, which has been developed to support organizations in the difficult journeys of developing and delivering successful products into the market. Find more info here.

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