Create an Innovation Culture
How do organizations revolutionize their products and services?
Is it possible to create a culture of innovation?
Is organizational culture linked to innovation and competitive advantage?
Soren Kaplan, Ph.D. answers these and other questions in his new book,Invisible Advantage: How to Create a Culture of Innovation. After reading his book, I had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his research in the area of innovation, disruption, and corporate culture. Soren has been recognized as a Thinkers50 Global Thought Leader. He’s a keynote speaker, a consultant, and an author. You may have read his previous book, Leapfrogging.
What is Missing from Culture Discussions
Organizational culture has been the rage in discussions for quite some time. What have many of these discussions missed?
People have been talking about organizational culture for years. But few discussions on the topic have explicitly linked culture directly to innovation. Even fewer focus on the integrated set of things that leaders can do that directly create a culture of innovation in a truly systematic way.
It’s one thing to create rewards for example. It’s another to look at how rewards, metrics, processes, and storytelling can all be used together to change culture for the better. The problem is that most leaders do things that both support and contradict a culture of innovation all at the same time, like telling people they want innovation but then not giving people time to innovate.
To many executives, culture has become a complex and mysterious topic. Business and leaders have lost sight of the fact that organizational culture is actually pretty simple. Here’s how it works: Employees have experiences in organizations that are influenced by leaders’ conscious and unconscious decisions and behaviors. Experiences shape assumptions about what is both desirable and undesirable behavior. Assumptions, in turn, influence and reinforce behavior. It’s an ongoing cycle. That cycle can be either virtuous or vicious and can lead to innovation or stagnation.
Why Culture is a Sustainable Advantage
Share a little about your thinking of culture as a sustainable competitive advantage.
The first reality in today’s disruptive world is that competitive advantage is temporary. Products, services, and even business models become commodities over time. If organizations do not continually invent and reinvent their competitive advantage, they risk being disrupted into obsolescence. Given all the disruption out there, this fact is the no-brainer.
As a result of the commoditization of just about everything, culture becomes the only sustainable competitive advantage. Culture represents the norms and values that drive behavior. When it’s focused on and reinforces innovation, it becomes the invisible secret sauce that drives employee engagement, business growth, and continuous reinvention.
The bottom line is that the soft stuff is the hardest stuff for competitors to copy. The goal is to create an “invisible competitive advantage,” something I call your “Invisible Advantage.”
“The only defensible competitive advantage is your culture.” -Soren Kaplan
In what ways can culture stifle innovation?