Monday, October 6, 2008

Innovation and Culture - Getting a Baseline is Key to Your Innovation Strategy Execution


Every organization has a unique culture that supports an organization's capacity to execute. Cultural capacity from one organization to another vaires in its: form, degree, depth, speed, and self- learning mechanisms. An organization's culture is not always unified but an institutional culture is the “collective personality” of your organization. An organization’s culture consists of deeply imbedded values, beliefs, philosophies, attitudes, and operating norms, artifacts, symbols, essentially boils down to “how things are done around here - that are more often than not captured in stories.”

One of the initial steps any organizational leader that wants to tap into developing an innovative culture to improve their current state. Having a position on currrent state innovation health will be a key success factor. Below is an extract of some of Helix's Innovation and Culture assessment web enabled tools to help provide the leadership forum participatns with a snapshot self assessment that can provide some quidance on how innovation is working in the context of your organizational boundaries. I like this as managers can also use this to have a conversation with their team(s) and facilitate increased awareness of strengths or gaps in working teams.

The most important factor in getting underway is simply to start with a learning orientation and having a conversation. Love to hear how this goes if you use some of these questions, if you want more information on more robust toolkits to measure innovation, just ping me

Innovation Culture Assessment

1. Do employees have a clear understanding of what innovation simply means? Does your organization’s vision, mission, and key strategies align to innovation capacity development? How would you describe the current innovation culture of your organization?What would you change to make it stronger to support innovation development?

2. How supportive is your culture to these behaviors: a) risk-taking, b) continual ambiguity, c) responsive implementation of ideas? d.)tolerance for failure e.)curiousity and experimentation? f.) complexity and non linear thinking? g.)openness and transparency? h.) knowledge sharing i.) Tolerance for reflection and holding still vs rushing everywhere? j.) enabling high performance teams and empowerment...

3.What are the real motivating factors that your organization uses to recognize individual and team activities? What effect(s) do they have on employees being more creative and proactive? Do you have any visible innovation awards?

4.What are your organizations' policies, rules, procedures, norms, methods, and leadership behaviors that inhibit innovation? How can they be eliminated, minimized, or modified?

5.What factors or types of “successes” determine how front-line employees, managers, and executives are recognized, rewarded, and promoted?What are your people penalized for? How does or has this impacted your on-going innovative efforts?

6.How does your organization view: a) daring (even far-fetched) ideas, b) ultra-visionary concepts, c) calculated risk-taking, and d) unavoidable mistakes from creative endeavors that didn’t pan out? Is failure generally seen as a learning or a (career) limiting experience?

7.How does your organization deal with frequent change? Historically, what’s been the resulting consequences and impact? What causes change and who typically drives it?How is change planned and executed?

8.What is the ratio between your employees focusing on problem-solving (“fighting fires”) or ("continuous improvement') vs opportunity-seeking (exploring for breakthroughh or disruptive, major changes and new opportunities) for your organization?

9. Do employees feel appreciated for their ideas and recommendations? Do they perceive their personal benefits to be aligned with your vision for innovation capacity/skills development? What causes employees to stop their flow of ideas and drop out from actively pursuing innovation?

10. Does your organization have a structured innovative process that’s regularly used to generate ideas (from mild to wild) and implement them effectively and efficiently? How do your track your ideation process and is this an accessible process to all employees, and managed, measured effectively? How much flexibility do people have in going outside of their normal job descriptions? (Note Helix has ideation capture sw that is world class).

11. Who typically comes up with ideas? How are they usually created--by individuals or teams, in formal brainstorming sessions, or informally and spontaneously? What percentage of ideas are implemented and how long does it generally take? How are potentially blockbuster ideas evaluated?

12. How would you describe the overall communication climate in your organization? To what extent is it open, honest, frank, positive, and supportive versus closed, adversarial, or chain-of-command driven, for example? How does communication affect the way people react to ideas and work together to approve, and implement them?

13. To what extent does your organization invest in sufficient employee training for: a) creative problem-solving, b) imaginative thinking, c) innovation concepts and application, and d) synergistic team-building techniques? Are employees given adequate resources (materials, time, funds, etc.) to pursue steady innovation?

14.Are team operating standards and individual performance criteria specific and clear enough to guide creative activity? Are they periodically reviewed and modified?

15. Is your organization more forward-looking than dwelling on previous successes and doing the same, even with diminishing returns? Does your culture permit a carefully tuned balance between short-term returns (tactical mode) and investments of time and energy for long-term gains (strategic mode)?


Culture is a major determinant of an organization’s ability and desire to innovate. Understanding what your culture is now, and how it needs to evolve, will help map out a way to produce even higher octane levels of performance in your organization, whatever its size and makeup may be. So, how do you rate your organization’s culture as it relates to innovation?

1 comment:

Daniel C (Dan) Smith said...

Looks like a comprehensive list. Do you get the answers via interviews or via questionnaires and certain scales?

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