The Easy Part: Defining an Innovation Workplace Culture
I just checked: Amazon US now offers 14,901 titles in its “innovation culture” category. Experts agree on the defining characteristics of a workplace culture within which innovation is most likely to thrive. The hard part, obviously, is creating and then sustaining one. Cris Beswick, Derek Bishop, and Jo Geraghty offer an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help business leaders achieve that objective. More specifically, they present and examine a “six-stage practical framework” that will enable those who read the book to define, develop, champion, and embed a culture of innovation thereby enabling them to discover and realize the true potential of their organization.
Here’s Beswick, Bishop, and Geraghty’s definition of innovation: “The successful implementation off something new or different that is affordable, accessible, adds value to the customer by solving a real problem and drive growth for the creator.” With regard to organizational culture, it is “essentially the collective beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors and communication style of the people who work within an organization.” However different the companies annually ranked as being most innovative may be in most respects (e.g. Buzzfeed, Facebook, CVS Health, Uber, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Black Lives Matter, and Taco Bell) certainly exemplify both definitions. They also suggest an important business lesson to leaders in companies now attempting to build a culture of innovation: Each views what it is, what it does, and how it does it today as the greatest threat to what it wants to become and do better tomorrow.
This is what Marshall Goldsmith has in mind when suggesting in a recent book that “what got you here won’t get you there.” In fact, I presume to add, what got you here won’t even be good enough to keep you here, however “here” and “gather” are defined. So the need for a framework is obvious. The one that Beswick, Bishop, and Geraghty propose consists of these steps:
1. KICK OFF WITH THE “WHY”: Understand where you are today and what the case for change is.
2. ASSEMBLE A TEAM: Build an innovation leadership team and internal change team.
3. AGREE ON THE DESIRED FUTURE: Design the future organization and culture around innovation.
4. ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION/COLLABORATION: Establish innovation and the required change as the foundation for communication and employee engagement.
5. CREATE A ROADMAP: Build innovation aptitude and develop a detailed design plan.
6. MAKE IT HAPPEN: Embed a culture of innovation and make it stick.
Beswick, Bishop, and Geraghty devote a separate chapter to each of these stages, with a focus on HOW. These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of their coverage:
o Adaptability (Pages 19-20)
o Case study: Identifying and overcoming barriers to innovation (27-30)
o Case study: The importance of the cultural assessment (47-49)
o Building leadership teams (69-72)
o Innovation (71-75)
o Accountability (86-87 and 102-103)
o Leading through change (89-91)
o Building innovation capabilities Case study: (106-108)
o Case study: Innovation collaboration (137-138)
o Communications (138-144)
o Case study: Launching innovation projects (146-147)
o Creating a compelling vision (153-157)
o Relationships (156-157 and 166-167)
o Case study: Harnessing people-powered innovation (167-169)
o Embedding change: Perspective (181-183)
o Inadequate culture change (183-187)
o Hiring for cultural fit (195-197)
No brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the quality of the information, insights, and counsel that are provided in this book but I hope that I have at least indicated why I think highly of it. As Cris Beswick, Derek Bishop, and Jo Geraghty make crystal clear, innovation really is more than a project or even an ongoing process; it is a way of life. The Japanese term for this mindset is “kaizen,” continuous improvement. The challenge is “make it better” at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise.
The extent to which that challenge is embraced by an organization’s workforce will determine the extent to which that organization prevails in a global marketplace that becomes more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous each day.
Robert Morris and has been published with his permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.