Creating the Innovation Culture Companies all want innovation but often don’t realize that they are set up very effectively to stifle it. In particular, managers want people to get along, in the not unreasonable belief that team members who like each other work better together. Except when it comes to innovation which needs dissent and disruption to be born. Creating the Innovation Culture gives managers practical strategies and hands-on advice for encouraging and managing a level of healthy dissent to allow innovation to flourish.
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From Chapter 2 The Efficiency-Innovation Dichotomy
While on the road to efficiency, we have inadvertently created organizations that are inhospitable to innovation.
Innovation and Visionary Companies
Visionary companies are ones we all want to work in. They have a strong sense of where they’re going; everyone is committed to that goal. Often the leader is held in high esteem, and his or her pronouncements have the ability to move the organization quickly in new directions. Loyalty is a strong feature, and the sense of everyone pulling together keeps people eager to come to work and contribute. Recognizing how fundamentally efficient this kind of culture is, companies have made many efforts to create it.
But, for all its positive characteristics, it has downsides. A company strongly committed to a goal will suppress, push out, or just not recruit those who think a different goal is better. And research shows that like-minded people talking only among themselves (as would happen in a company with a unity of purpose) reinforces their intolerance for different ideas. Conference Board studies have concluded that organizations have difficulty developing a new perspective because they are blind to their own assumptions. C.J. Nemeth, in a California Management Review article, goes even further by saying that “there is evidence that the atmosphere most likely to induce creativity [innovation] is one diametrically opposed to the ‘cult-like’ corporate culture.”
This has a ring of truth, don’t you think? Ever been in a company where high quality is valued? What do you think of people who do less than their best? If you’re a really fine human being, you might just shrug and think, “To each his own,” but if you’re like the rest of us, you’re more likely to have dark thoughts about his parentage and personal habits. You might avoid working with him because he won’t put in the extra hours and you’ll be stuck with everything. In a culture that reinforces high quality, there is very little sympathy for someone who just gets by. And yet, isn’t it possible that sometimes this guy is right? Is it always necessary to do things perfectly? Aren’t there times when good enough is good enough, especially in our first-to-market era? But an organization committed only to the best and that silences those who think differently will have little ability to recognize, much less act on, that trend.
Discouraging different views might be effective as long as the current goal is viable. But once that goal is achieved or, worse, has become irrelevant while you’re still working toward it, a culture that suppresses dissident views will have no one around to point that out.
What people are saying
“Frances Horibe’s insightful narrative is both thought-provoking and entertaining. Creating the Innovation Culture is a vital part of any library—especially for those of us who toil daily to harness and encourage creativity. In business today, innovation is everything. This book is an exploration of the delicate balance between innovation and dissidence.”
President and CEO
“In this lively, well written book, Horibe helps us realize that we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. She wisely points out that great leaders seek out and encourage people who will challenge them and their rules. This book is full of great tips on how to be this type of leader so you, too, can help innovation flourish in your organization.”
Senior Vice President
“It was George Bernard Shaw who once remarked with undeniable logic that all progress has to depend on the ‘unreasonable man’ because they are the ones who don’t adapt to the world as it is. This, of course, makes perfect sense, but only up to the point where one is faced with having to deal with the reality of it in an organization.
“Whether you’re one of the dissenters, someone managing dissent, or merely an observer, there’s something in Creating the Innovation Culture for everyone—an understanding of dissent and innovation, advice, new ideas, and a hint of the consequences if we don’t learn to deal with those ‘unreasonable men.’”
Vice President, Americas, Quality & Customer Relations
“Creating the Innovation Culture shows us how to manage the most creative behaviour in an organization—dissent. It accurately and effectively describes why the need for dissent is so important to stimulate innovation that we must promote, support, and manage dissent if our businesses today are going to survive and flourish.”
Vice President, Business Development
“Frances Horibe illustrates her very astute understanding of the forces at play inside organizations. By challenging our zealous devotion to vision, quality, teams and alignment, she points out how our best intentions conspire to stomp out the very innovation that we are all dependent upon. She offers pragmatic solutions for how to continue to hear dissent, how to keep it in the open, get it out of the underground, and prepare the ground for innovation. This is a must-read for leaders serious about creating the conditions for innovation.”
Vice President, Organizational Development
“Frances Horibe has made a compelling case for leaders to encourage diversity of ideas and to embrace ‘dissenters’ for their organizations to be innovative and successful.”
Chief Executive Officer
“We are on the edge of awareness that organizations have to learn how to really think, not just ‘manage knowledge.’ This book builds this awareness in plain, simple, and hard-hitting language.”
Dr. Min Basadur
Michael G. DeGroote School of Business