Culture is the Key Indicator of Innovation

by Michael Graber

Culture is the Key Indicator of InnovationAn odd dynamic is taking place among the C-suite of many companies. They demand more innovation from the organization without really knowing what that means and the implications it has for the organization.

Innovation requires a change in the organization, but leaders are too often unwilling to do what is required to make the changes.

When an organization needs more innovation, it needs to first prime the culture. Start by getting a team ready with exercises, such as meeting with customers, going into the field, or brain-activating exercises.

The second element is working on the culture itself. Otherwise, there will be conflict. When a team has a full portfolio of potential gold for the company and the culture is not ready to receive it, bad will is created.

The hard work is getting the culture ready to receive this change in behavior, mindset and their existing business model.

What you find is the rise of the cultural antibodies. They attack this team and their ideas like a foreign object that entered a body. They suppress the new concepts as quickly as possible. This is a telltale sign that the culture needs to be worked on before commissioning an innovation project.

To begin considering a change in culture, one activity asks the senior leadership team to examine new models of revenue. This helps to push the team in new directions and can also identify revenue opportunities that are easily attainable.

Such cultural change activities help the organization to understand what exists, what can be changed and what is essential. Organizations frequently find that what they thought was impossible is actually within reach.

Organizations seeking to improve their innovation culture need three things:

1. The full support and backing of the executive team in ways that are visible to the organization.

2. Building multidisciplinary innovation teams that understand how to lead innovation efforts.

3. These teams then help others in the organization, being sherpas to show methods, teach and walk alongside those learning the new techniques.

Culture is the actions taken or not taken.

To begin an innovation discipline, every organization needs to set aside some time to figure out what they are willing to become. They need to figure out if they are willing to change their behavior to achieve a desirable outcome.

For example, if you’re a product company and you have rising costs, and your returns are negligible or declining, you probably need to change the way you’re creating and designing products. Before making these changes, change the culture. Or else.

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Michael GraberMichael Graber is the co-founder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis. Follow Michael @SouthernGrowth

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