Why are some organizations innovative and others not? How can you work to foster a cutting-edge culture from your leadership position?
In this post, we examine how organizational culture is critical to innovative organizations. Specifically, we detail seven essential elements and assess how you and your organization fare. This post begins a series on creating a cutting-edge culture.
Murfield Coaching solves significant problems through innovative thinking. We work to magnify your unique value, not replicate what others do. That requires innovative thinking to solve significant problems. Our clients most appreciate our emphasis on building employee engagement, alleviating employee trauma, and unleashing disruptive innovation. Our research shows that innovation occurs most often within a cutting-edge organizational culture.
What is Organizational Culture?
Simply stated, organizational culture is how you get things done. It starts at the top. If it is your company or department, you set the tone with your “vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits (Needle, 2004).
“Culture is the formal and informal practices that mark an organizations’ character, such as rites and rituals and the display of meaningful artifacts like architecture, interior design, posters, and furniture. Moreover, the cultural approach foregrounds the human desire to organizational life as an opportunity to do something meaningful. (Gendron, 1999).
Who Shapes Your Innovative Culture?
Executives shape organizations the most. They have the position power to make a decision and enact the policies. It is their vision of innovation that will drive the team. Beyond the top-level executives, two other groups have the power to shape an innovative culture. However, make no mistake, without the executives fostering an innovative culture, it probably is not going to happen.
Departmental leaders shape the atmosphere of their teams. They embrace the vision of the executives but have considerable freedom to set the tone in their departments. Those seeking innovation set a much different tone than those seeking compliance. The elements discussed below illustrate the differences.
The last category is “Everyone Else.” Anyone wan work to create an innovative atmosphere. Does that sound misguided? It may but hear me out. We all chose our mindset. Yes, the atmosphere around us does make a difference, but ultimately, we control our own mindset. Our leaders often value thinking creatively to solve significant problems (or even those small and annoying problems.) We can choose to be the problem solver without overstepping our authority.
Many dismiss innovative opportunities because they think they don’t have the authority. However, those that welcome a chance to solve problems without stepping on the toes of supervisors or peers will likely be appreciated. If not, they need to look for another place to work or a different way to approach the team leader.
7 Elements of Innovative Organizational Cultures
Those seeking to innovate have a different perspective, foster a different vision, and set a much different atmosphere than those who are merely trying to keep up or survive. Looking at each of the items listed by Needle (2004), let’s briefly look at each.
First, innovative organizations have a vision of doing what has never been done before. They see a new world and are compelled to make that vision a reality.
- What is your vision?
- In what way does it foster innovation?
- How passionate are you about innovating?
Second, innovative organizations value radical change. Innovative leaders understand they cannot do it by themselves, so they value collaboration over competition. They also appreciate creative individuals who can make that vision a reality.
- What do you value most?
- How much do you value innovation?
- If you asked the five people who know you best at work, what would they say you value most?
Third, innovative organizations understand what practices need to be in place to best foster innovation. Maybe the most important note to make here is that they know what rules to ignore. Examine an innovative culture, and you will find that innovative organizations have very few rules because they understand creative individuals needs the freedom to work “outside the box” and to redesign the box.
- How many rules do you require at work?
- What happens when someone does not follow the rules?
- How much energy do you spend to ensure your team follows the rules?
- What does your team think of the rules?
Fourth, they build systems based on the previous three elements, not some top-down or outside-in synthetic mandate. All organizations find systems that work for them. However, as you will see below, innovative organizations foster flexibility in their systems.
- What systems work best for you?
- When is the last time you assessed the effectiveness of those systems?
- Do they foster more innovation or obedience?
Fifth, Needle uses the terms symbols and language. Those who have studied communication define communication as the symbols and language we use to negotiate shared meaning. Innovative communication is more than just “getting our message across” because we are delving into what others have not experienced. Therefore, innovative communication is using symbols and language to help shape a common understanding among those within the organization as well as vendors, customers, and potential customers.
- What is your style of communication?
- Do you do more speaking than listening? (Be honest.)
- How effective are you in creating shared meaning with your team?
Sixth, innovative organizations believe that doing the “impossible” is their mission. Nothing innovative happens if the people working to innovate don’t believe it is possible. Disbelief is deadly. Meanwhile, those that believe anything is possible innovate.
- To what degree do you believe you can innovate? (again, be honest)
- Does your team believe the innovation you desire is possible? Why?
- What will it take to build your team’s confidence?
Seventh, disruption is a healthy habit innovators hone. A healthy habit is an unconscious behavior that has been purposely developed to ensure the best opportunity to succeed. At the same time, bad habits develop with lazy motivation. Sometimes bad habits were once best practices that are outdated. The innovation habit is challenging to hone because it requires tolerance for failure. Innovation is challenging; playing it safe is often easier. However, those that are innovative have developed a habitual mindset of thinking beyond the failures.
- Do you foster more of an attitude of innovation or playing it safe?
- What is your habit of responding to a failure? Do you immediately cringe or welcome the opportunity to adjust?
- What are the thinking habits of your team?
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(c) 2019 Murfield International, Inc.
DO the IMPOSSIBLE!!!
Loren Murfield, Ph.D.
We work with leaders and organizations to solve significant problems with innovative thinking. What problem is frustrating you? Contact us today.