Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Innovation and Company Culture

Reading the brief synopsis of ASQ's future study I am amazed at the statements contained in the study and I am interested to read the full study when it is completed.

Rather than take a broad swipe at the topics in the study, I would like to focus my attention on the topic that I think is the most critical for the future of the world economy: innovation. My favorite definition of innovation being the practical application of invention, which is itself the result of creativity. It is in the realm of creativity that the engineer and the poet, the researcher and the composer, the manager and the sculptor exist in the same space and breathe the same air. What causes this spark of creativity which leads down the path to invention and innovation? What can organizations do to cultivate this spark?


I think that a company that wants to engender creativity, invention and innovation must be a company that has a stable and predictable company culture. Note that I did not say "good" company culture. A good company culture is truly in the eye of the beholder. There are as many company cultures as there are people and just like the personality of every person is different, the culture of every company is different. The key issue is the stability and predictability of the culture. Just like no one wants to be married to someone who is happy one minute, sad the next, responsible the next and then irresponsible nobody wants to work for a company that cannot maintain a consistent culture. Acquisitions (usually without the requisite planning and integration periods), frequent senior management changes ("frequent" meaning less than two years) and conflicting internal structures (multiple reporting lines, different departments with different mandates) lead to a culture of uncertainty and insecurity. People who are in such a culture are more concerned with their basic career survival rather than being creative. Just like Maslow's hierarchy of needs they are not at all concerned with the higher levels of actualization in the company.

Innovation is a fact of life for business going forward. Companies that do not recognize this are doomed to failure as a lack of innovation is the quickest way to lose market share. Cost-cutting does not win customers, innovation does. Companies that are serious about innovation will do whatever they can to create and sustain a predictable company culture. "Good" company cultures abound in the business world and the majority of them would be considered "stable". As Quality professionals we can lead the discussion of what constitutes a stable company culture in our own companies. We cannot afford to do otherwise.

2 comments:

  1. Chis

    sounds like a company that I would like to work for !

    good to see focus on innovation aspects of continual improvement

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