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The importance of culture to innovation

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The importance of culture to innovation

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Culture is a big deal when it comes to most things in business, but especially so for innovation.  I’ve written previously about the role culture plays in a wider sense, but in this blog I’d like to talk about the specific culture of your innovation team.

You see, it’s almost certain that your organisation will have a culture.  It will have a set of commonly held assumptions about what it needs to do to do well, and it will have a traditional means of achieving that aim that form part of their organisational DNA.  This could be to focus on costs or to put the customer first at all times.

The culture in your organisation is often communicated in narrative form via various stories that form the legend of the company.  These can often revolve around the founder and how they made a particularly bold or courageous decision.  You know the sort of thing.

These kind of stories are great for the cash cow part of the business as they help to define and identify it.  The problem comes when they also begin to define and identify your innovation team.  This becomes a problem when your innovation team have aims that are not conducive with that of the cash cow part of the business.  If for instance the business prides itself on its exceptional product quality, yet your innovation team have been tasked with producing a low cost product, you have a problem.

Therefore, if you want your innovation to succeed, you need to careful analyse the culture of your business and identify the bits that are a good fit with the direction you want your innovation team to take, and the bits that aren’t.

From here, the leader of your innovation team can then work to cultivate their own stories and legends.  Of course, leaders should be wary of implications towards the cash cow part of the business when forging these legends.  For instance, if the innovation team mould themselves as anti-red tape and creative, then it does kinda imply that the rest of the business is neither of those things, so a note of caution on that, but you will need to create a distinct culture for your innovation team if it’s to thrive.

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