Capabilities

From Nebulae to Supernova: Transforming Organizational Culture and Stimulating Innovation

  • Jérôme Bouquet
  • September 2, 2020

The accelerating evolution of technology forces us to revisit strategy and execution timelines, and can become the deciding factor for success. The gap between the context of these emerging challenges and the lengthy processes and hierarchical pyramids that structure modern-day firms has a negative effect on team engagement. How can we bolster a positive dynamic, and quickly deliver results with strategic advantages?

Innovation challenges existing strategy, and can be an excellent tool for experimenting with new practices and new values.

The path that enterprises have followed for many dozens of years has been the pursuit of scaleable growth and coping with the five forces of Porter. As such, the strategies forged in the best business schools have been developed via systems and culture guided by processes, and have deployed tools of strategic planning; of management by objective, balance scorecard, budget allocation, KPIs and so forth. These methods have made it possible to build high-performance industries.

However the high disengagement of employees in these enterprises displays the limits of both the system and the culture. With only 10% of employees fully engaged, the dynamics of enterprise management do not always reflect the dynamic of its employees.

Furthermore, with the rapid development of new digital technologies, the environment remains volatile. The adequate process mechanics to create these empires does not offer the agility that is needed in order to react to rapid changes. The solution that is usually envisaged when this discrepancy becomes apparent is still a top-down approach, often accompanied by a significant turnover in the key functions.

As a result, this mechanisation and specialisation of functions does not provide an answer to the problems posed by changes and innovation. As their means of operation is taken up by driving the current business using numbers and processes, management often lacks a perspective on the possibilities made available by new technology. Internal mechanics thus take precedence over a rapidly changing environment.

Understanding these emerging transformational technology dynamics and their impact on your business won’t cost you an arm and a leg. To do this, you have to get out of the comfort zone provided by the original logic and culture of your business. Before management or processes create the demand for change, you must first create a space in which innovation and transformation are the objectives.

These initiatives should present challenges for your teams, with limits on resources and time, and issues based on potential or actual clients. Above all, open-minded thinking should be encouraged, and the possibility for there to be external solutions to internal problems. This step in particular is an important challenge to standard thought processes, and could have a major impact on everyday company behaviour.

Experience, combined with a number of studies by psychologists such as Edward Deci, show that human beings have an insurmountable need for novelty, and for new challenges which herald learning and growth. People will not agree to dedicate the full scope of their ideas and intelligence solely under the direction of authority. Giving teams a space for self-fulfillment and autonomy will result, on their side, in stronger engagement, fresh ideas and new capabilities.

The energy produced by activity in this autonomous space can be harnessed. By giving your team an opportunity to conduct short-term experiments without impacting the core processes of your business, you can learn the real possibilities of new avenues. Additionally, the experiments and initiatives in this space provide material for management, when they understand the need for change and want to hear your suggestions.

Transitioning from a culture based on processes and control to a culture steeped in experimentation and open to alternative solutions is not easy. A number of obstacles, primarily tied to collective company spirit, can hinder or distort the proposed initiatives. Their success relies on the team’s commitment to questioning company culture, and being open to new ways of problem-solving.