It is vital for a business to be innovative especially in this modern era where the market is highly competitive all over the globe. Crafting an innovative culture and organization has become one of the challenging issues that 21st century managers will have to face and tackle it. To be innovative is to introduce new ideas successfully whereas culture carries the meaning of certain ways of life like beliefs, values and behaviors that are shared among a particular social group (Jennex, 2008, p.107).
Innovate or die. It is this serious for organisations if they are lack of innovation as it is seen as the engine of an organisation for growth (Bryant, 2007). Innovation is the key to success and survival for a corporate. Successful leaders and companies recognize innovation as a force that drives growth. Furthermore, innovation is achieved by sharing a continuously intense growth attitude, passion for solving problem and also turning thoughts into realities.
Being innovative will only lead to more growth as new markets, services and products are introduced and re-invent. This depends solely on an organization’s capability to recognize market opportunities, its internal abilities to respond to situation innovatively and also its knowledge base (Kotelnikov, n.d.).
The characteristics of a typical innovative organisation are that the company’s management tolerates failure when individuals take on risks to be innovative. Next, bureaucratic policies are kept at a minimum level in order to keep the job description easily comprehensible and allow flexibility for the employees to have an opportunity to improvise it. An innovative organisation also does not analyse risk continuously whereas it measures both potential benefit and risks involved before making any decisions.
There are also two groupings of employees in an organisation where the first would be the one who are applying others’ ideas and the other type would be the risk-taker. However, these groupings are still given equal rewards for their dedication, loyalty and willingness to take risks. Besides that, the management is open to ideas from any employee as it realises the importance of it that can actually bring success and longevity to the organisation. Furthermore, the organisation encourages suggestion for improvement and would appreciate and pay attention to ideas regardless of their sources.
Subsequently, informal communication is strongly encouraged even if individuals are from different department background and also interpersonal skills. The reason for this is it can build trust and loyalty towards the organisation as a whole (Mintzer, 2004). It is necessary to study the characteristics of an innovative organisation and how it functions in order to create one.
Innovation is a mindset where it is influenced by a person’s thoughts and acts. Therefore, having the right corporate culture can aid in crafting a successful innovative organisation. There are many organisations have attempted to implement systems to create an innovative culture but this is only a way to commence the process. In order to craft an innovative culture, top managers in the corporate will have to first be aware of their own actions, words, and decisions in detail as it can inspire the others to innovate actively (Bryant, 2007).
There are two methods to change a culture in a corporate; the engineering approach and mindful approach. The engineering approach has three levels that are relatively easy to put in practice to shape the right culture. Firstly, it is the slogan level where the purpose is to create a culture. Although in reality, the company’s slogan does not always match with the management in it, slogan can still serve as a starting point.
Second, the incubation level can assist the process of creating an innovative culture by developing groups or appointing someone that is responsible for innovation. Next is the compliance level which refers to implementing systems to encourage creativity. For example, the suggestion schemes, reward and recognition schemes are systems that can promote creativity and may even change a corporate culture.
Undeniably, the engineering approach is a good start but it is very limited and is not sufficient to form an innovative culture, hence this is where the mindful approach comes in place. This approach is based on employees observing and taking signals from top-level leaders meaning that every action is vital. In order to achieve this approach, managers will have to change behaviors and habits that are often unconscious and traditional values. There are also three levels for this approach. First of all, the attention level describes that top-level managers have to give more attention to actions and employees to encourage innovation.
Managers should be open to ideas and broaden their view where it focuses on creativity, knowledge, and context rather than risk, status and content. The next level is disruption level. This states that although conformity is needed at an essential level for corporate to function smoothly, disruption should not be suppressed as this will hinder innovation. Therefore, the senior managers must possess a skill that juggles the tension of these two identities for creativity to happen.
They should also lead others to get out of the comfort zone and show direction to truly change the culture of the corporate. Lastly, the interaction level would be the most difficult to attain as it require the leaders to be constantly aware of himself, the way of interaction with others. This is due to the fact that leaders can convey distinct information through voice tone and body language in just a split second. For example, leaders inspiring fear or challenge and pessimism or optimism can be very critical as this usually happens unconsciously (Bryant, 2007).
For innovation to sustain, imitating best practices of other’s in a robotic manner is not the way. The true catalysing agent for continuous flow of innovation actually comes from culture. The same issues are always discuss in books about innovation but all those cannot be apply without the presence of the basic element, that is the culture created deliberately for innovation. "Companies are actually living organisms, not machines. We keep bringing in mechanics, when what we need are gardeners." claimed Peter Senge.
This statement is contradicting with the classical perspective where it states that to make organisation into an efficient operating machine. The metaphor of “creating a garden” closely illustrates what an organisation should do. Creating a culture is not an easy task because most of the corporate have uncultivated ground and need clearing. Gardening requires constant hard work and systematic effort to get a yield. On the other hand, for an organisation to create the culture for innovation involves plenty of time to carry out each step methodically just like the gardeners (Ditkoff, 2010).
First of all, the gardener of innovation must desire for results. The final product of employees is what that motivates the gardener. He must be committed in order to harvest the result, whetting the appetite of the workforce as well as awaken them to feel the urge to move in the same direction. Secondly is to stake and prepare a ground for innovation where a corporate focuses in fields that it wants and start the preparation for planting. This involves removing obstacles to create a strong foundation.
After that is to find diverse seeds, meaning ideas to increase the chances of having an interesting yield. Next is to plant the seeds in a more effective way so that it will have the opportunity to grow into seedlings. The following step is to fence the garden, meaning building a territory to protect it from naysayers and external environment. Conceiving a garden denotes conceiving new ideas is easy than to transform ideas into life.
Majority of the company’s are not aware of the process for developing the growth of new ideas and had caused many new ideas turned down. Besides that, inexperienced gardeners are often influenced by their drive for large harvest that leads them to plant more seeds making it too crowded within the same space of ground. This has created a converse result where the plants are stunted due to the fact that the plants compete for limited resources for growth. This goes the same for the gardeners of innovation where if too many ideas exist at the same time, it will only lead to great competition for the limited resources and the ideas will also be stunted.
Therefore, organisation will have to select the most appropriate ideas and create a favorable environment. Last but not least is to celebrate the harvest. There are cultures having ritual or ceremony to show appreciation of harvest and organisation should also do the same by acknowledging employees’ hard work. This can even motivate the whole workforce and create a culture of innovation that can sustain. Hence, culture should be cultivated and not to be managed (Ditkoff, 2010).
A real-life example of an innovative organisation would be the Honda Motor, a deeply innovative company culture that ranks second in the list of most admired companies in the motor vehicles industries after BMW (CNNmoney, 2010 [b]). The Honda Motor is worth to be admired as being innovative is one of its priorities.
Honda had created many innovative products like the robot that connects to the brain that analyses thoughts pattern and transmit them as wireless command for Asimo, the human-shaped robot (Kageyama, 2009). Besides that, it also has created innovative leading cars like the hybrid car that won Toyota Prius by a month, the full-size SUV Honda and an upcoming hydrogen fuel cell hybrid car that is fuel-efficient (Morgan, n.d.).
Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda motor once said “do not imitate” that had reflected in the hearts of Honda’s employees and now they are persistently challenging themselves to keep being innovative (Honda, 2010). Honda Motor had excellence performance where the revenue had increased nearly 40% from the year 2002 to 2008.
Honda could achieve excellence is due to its willingness of letting their engineers experiment and explore. Furthermore, it also produces affordable innovative products that the society wants. Honda is the opposite of Toyota where Toyota tend to be more bureaucratic whereas Honda is towards entrepreneurial, sometimes may even be quirky.
Honda’s organisation structure is relatively flat that had made job advancement rather limited and does not pay their employees as much as the competitors do. Nevertheless, their satisfaction and loyalty towards the company had made the company to be a success. Takeo Fukui who holds the current position of president and CEO confessed that he only meets with the research and development’s management once or twice a year so that engineers can work freely (Taylor, 2008).
Honda’s philosophy has created the innovative culture today as it was stated to have respect for individuals. Everyone is given an opportunity and honors their contributions. Respecting others means by giving equal treatment regardless of background, to give freedom for initiative to take place and build mutual trust relationship among associates. Honda has 5 management policies that are aimed to encourage innovation. It is to stay ambition and youthfulness which means having a dream that can give them the positive energy to constantly motivate them and to always be open-minded with new ideas. Next is to have the flexibility to accept new ideas and to use the time efficiently.
Furthermore, enjoy and lighten the working atmosphere and achieving harmonious flow of work are also their management policies. Lastly, it is to be mindful of the value of research and strive is its management policies (University of Milan, n.d.). The culture in Honda encourages innovation and the leadership also wants it. Besides that, Honda’s official website even has a section that dedicates to their focus on innovation and results of it.
Honda has this innovative culture deeply rooted in its organisation ever since it commenced. Honda also demonstrates an example of cultivating its culture since it is established. It desires for result, creates an environment that encourages their employees to innovate freely, take risks, prepares platform for the engineers to strive, selects appropriate ideas, uses the time efficiently and acknowledges their contribution.
To create an innovative culture and organisation, the corporate will have to first overcome certain issues like lacked of shared vision, short-term thinking, reluctant to acknowledge and learning from the past mistakes, risk aversion and many more (Ideachampions, 2010). In order to change an organisation into an innovative one, the culture of it will have to be transformed first. An innovative culture of an organisation should be cultivated and not to be managed in order to be successful and sustainable.
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