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How Does an Organisational Culture Affect Innovations?

How Does an Organisational Culture Affect Innovations?

Innovative organiza- tions tend to have similar cultures.46 They encourage experimentation; reward both successes and failures; and celebrate mistakes. An innovative organization is likely to have the following characteristics.

� Accept ambiguity. Too much emphasis on objectivity and specificity constrains creativity.

� Tolerate the impractical. Individuals who offer impractical, even foolish, answers to what-if questions are not stifled. What at first seems impractical might lead to innova- tive solutions.

� Keep external controls minimal. Rules, regulations, policies, and similar organizational controls are kept to a minimum.

� Tolerate risk. Employees are encouraged to experiment without fear of consequences should they fail. Mistakes are treated as learning opportunities.

� Tolerate conflict. Diversity of opinions is encouraged. Harmony and agreement between individuals or units are not assumed to be evidence of high performance.

� Focus on ends rather than means. Goals are made clear, and individuals are encouraged to consider alternative routes toward meeting the goals. Focusing on ends suggests that there might be several right answers to any given problem.


Structural Variables

• Organic Structures • Abundant Resources • High Interunit Communication • Minimal Time Pressure • Work and Nonwork Support Human Resource Variables

• High Commitment to Training and Development • High Job Security • Creative People

Cultural Variables

• Acceptance of Ambiguity • Tolerance of the Impractical • Low External Controls • Tolerance of Risks • Tolerance of Conflict • Focus on Ends • Open-System Focus • Positive Feedback


idea champions Individuals who actively and enthusiastically support new ideas, build support for, overcome resistance to, and ensure that innovations are implemented.

Innovation is paramount at Facebook, and the company’s culture stimulates the process of taking a creative idea and turning it into useful products and services. Like other innovative organizations, Facebook encourages experimentation and tolerance of conflict and risk and keeps rules and regulations at a minimum. The company insists that employees act like pioneers, asking questions no one has asked before and identifying new opportunities. At Facebook, part of the innovative process involves cutting loose and having fun, such as the employee shown here taking a brief break from work to play.

� Use an open-system focus. Managers closely monitor the environment and respond to changes as they occur. For example, at Starbucks, product development depends on “inspiration field trips to view customers and trends.” Michelle Gass, now the company’s executive vice president of marketing, “took her team to Paris, Düsseldorf, and London to visit local Starbucks and other restaurants to get a better sense of local cultures, behaviors, and fashions.” She says, “You come back just full of different ideas and different ways to think about things than you would had you read about it in a magazine or e-mail.”47

� Provide positive feedback. Managers provide positive feedback, encouragement, and support so employees feel that their creative ideas receive attention. For instance, at Research In Motion, Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO says, “I think we have a culture of innovation here, and [engineers] have absolute access to me. I live a life that tries to promote innovation.”


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