The Harsh Reality about building an Innovation Culture

An ancient Chinese proverb says, ” If your vision is for a year, plant wheat. If your vision is for a decade, plant trees, and if your vision is for generations, plant people” Innovation is a deeply human activity. People make all the critical decisions about innovation; they decide which problems are interesting, attractive solutions and ultimately, they decide who works on the various teams. In essence, culture shapes the way people think and more importantly how they behave, and, thus, it profoundly shapes how innovation happens. You cannot talk about building capacity for innovation without talking about organisational culture.

The basic assumptions about building an innovation culture is; if you create an environment where tolerance for failure exists, willingness to experiment, psychological safety, collaboration, and flatness all will be well but is that the case? No why? All the above are great but when you study highly innovative cultures you find out that they go a step further. They espouse;

  • Tolerance for failure but not tolerance for incompetence.
  • Willingness to experiment but highly disciplined.
  • Psychological safety but brutally honest.
  • Collaborative but individual accountability.

The above are harder to build. Innovative cultures are not always pleasant to work in. They are not for everyone so before building one, count the price.

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