Want a More Innovative Company? Focus on Your Culture

Updated on 3 June 2019

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All organisations, irrespective of size and how long they have been in business, flourish when innovation is alive in the organisation.
Innovation has become a business imperative of note, as the world becomes a smaller place to do business in. Everything is connected via the internet and your nearest competitor might not even be located on the same continent as you.

The leaders I speak to all desire more ownership and innovation in their organisation. When I ask them about the biggest barrier to innovation, their response is mostly: A lack of time.

Innovation is an output of culture

A strategy for innovation

I would like to bring a different approach to this challenge. Innovation is not something you do in the morning, or in an ‘innovation meeting’, or once a week…

Innovation is a result of creating the right conditions for people to feel heard, where they are encouraged and rewarded for input without judgement. Innovation is an output of culture.

Leaders from various organisations share these common challenges with me:

– Passionate and visionary leaders struggling to translate their vision and plans with the rest of the organisation.
– Leaders feeling pressured to come up with all the answers and being frustrated about no one else ‘thinking’ in the organisation.
– Engagements in which mainly the leader’s voice is heard, while the rest of the staff feel disengaged.
– Creating feel-good events for the staff to increase staff satisfaction, but problem solving and innovation doesn’t increase.

For SMEs innovation is even more essential, as it can be the critical differentiator between make or break.

Focus on relationships and culture, the conditions that enable employees to feel they belong

Creating the right conditions

As leaders the focus needs to be on creating the conditions in which innovation takes place. What does this mean, ‘creating the conditions’?

Leaders for the most part approach their organisation from an angle of ‘what needs to get done today’! The focus is on tasks and transactions which are prioritised, and then people are told/asked to complete these tasks within the required timelines. Add to that the usual daily dose of pressure and complexity that goes with running an organisation, and you end up with the conditions that lead to frustration, disengagement and poor productivity.

My invitation to leaders is to switch things around. Focus on relationships and culture, the conditions that enable employees to feel they belong, where their views and insights are heard and valued, and where they know they matter to the company. Creating this psychological space for your company and employees is part of creating the conditions for you to leverage the genius in your organisation.

Focus on relationships as the primary enabler for getting work done

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’

Innovation can sometimes feel like a slippery fish. It’s not linear. In this article mathematicians have grappled with this topic for a number of years and define innovation as ‘arising from the interplay between the actual and the possible’.

One of the qualities we have as humans is our ability to dream. To dream up what’s possible. Ideas, concepts and visions that compel us to move forward.

When we focus on relationships as the primary enabler for getting work done, for developing solutions, for achieving our dreams and goals, we have a much bigger chance of achieving what we have set out to do. As people we always want to belong. When we belong, we show up with our full potential.

The culture in an organisation is the descriptor of the quality of relationships in an organisation, and is the enabler or disabler to innovation. That’s why the saying goes: ’culture eats strategy for breakfast’!

Changing your culture to be inclusive, collaborative and innovative is not a quick journey, but the investment in time will bring you the innovation what you are looking for and needing.

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