The organizational culture captures a “firm’s personality” and is thus much more than slogans and empty promises like: “Culture is the way we do things around here” or “Culture is the ‘social glue’ that helps to hold the organization together”.
Setting the stage
Not only top management but also most of the company employees probably instinctively feel that this is an important area to understand better and embrace. However, it is also a very complex topic. Once considered primarily an output of R&D laboratories, innovation has become a corporate priority that touches every facet of an organization. This notion has been expressed as: “Innovation needs to move out of the clean rooms of R&D”. Our working definition of corporate culture is:
”The psycho-social environment, including employees’ shared view of reality, collective beliefs and value systems, giving patterns of implicitly agreed-upon attitudes and manifest behaviour, within a platform of more or less explicitly formulated norms and corporate policy”.
A few questions related to your corporate culture:
- Is it possible to characterize, measure and profile corporate culture by a number of independent attributes?
- Is there a difference between a truly innovative corporate culture and a less innovative culture – are there any indicators that can be used as a simple “litmus tests” (blue or red)?
- Does the “corporate innovation culture” relate to overall corporate innovation performance and even to the “bottom line”?
- What is the origin (history) of your company culture, and how is it manifested today in corporate life?
- How does your R&D innovation culture link to your overall corporate innovation culture?
- How important is culture in your corporate perspective of Strategy and Structure, and is it true that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”?
A corporate innovation culture of excellence concerns all employees in a corporate-wide perspective, but it must have its R&D organization as its nucleus. It provides the overall organizational context for company Innovation Management, but they are not of a similar character but must support each other. Furthermore, a company is not a “cultural island”, and the corporate innovation culture must adapt to national cultural diversity and thus avoid ethnocentricity.
Since corporate cultures are, in part, moulded by the requirements of the industry in which they operate, sectoral cultural idiosyncrasies must be observed. Moreover, the corporate host culture is rarely uniform and consists of a number of organizational sub-cultures. Each company must develop its unique innovation culture profile, and these profiles will interact in different cultural configurations. There is no “best” corporate innovation culture, and each culture should be unique and difficult to imitate – Our Company Culture!
In the perspective of innovation cultural dynamics, innovation culture should never be static. Change must continuously shape improved behaviour. Sometimes, a cultural change involves new learning or un-learning, and sometimes it involves new people. The mission will delineate new or improved composite innovation culture profiles and configurations that will boost company overall innovation performance and, in the long term, the “bottom line”. The improved corporate innovation culture will promote an enhanced company product and process innovation performance. A supporting instrument and “cultural guide”, which can be deployed in company future mergers, expansions, demergers or downsizing.