A few days ago, I was discussing how wrapping your head around the Monty Hall problem could help you better understand the importance of failure in innovation. If you take it a step further today, we could argue that most corporate incubation programs should be build around this probabilistic calculation.
The key argument of doubters on how fast the self-driving vehicles will go live is risk and the social acceptability (or the lack thereof) of deaths from vehicles making choices on their own. Truth to be told, yes, social acceptability is a steep barrier to entry for adopting technologies at large scale. You should nonetheless remember that innovation is not a clean decisive strike either, its death of the status quo by a thousand cuts.
When we talk about innovation we say it is motion. Until there is movement or change in the market, you cannot call your invention or idea an innovation. Emotions at work can either support or hinder innovation. They can be strong drivers for action, change and movement, and keep people alert and aware of signals in their environment or become uncontrollable, completely unproductive or even freeze creativity. Finding the “right” level of emotions or as I call it “emotional sweet spot” is key to powered innovation.
Innovation literature is flooded with various arguments on why and how you should take risk as a company. As someone who’s depending on the success of the companies I work with (sometimes I even presume much more than their own management), I can’t avoid being one of these risk evangelist. The problem essentially is always the same. Risk is waved on principles as a good thing supported by plethoras of well-thinking weak sauce arguments. Inevitably, all these arguments are swiftly shelved when real work needs to be done.
Understanding network effects has been the underlying driver of the software revolution sparked less than a decade ago. And as always with innovation, as soon as we think we start to grasp it, it already morphes into something new. In our case, new network effects appear and we barely start to grasp them.
The main reason why a corporate culture change fails is the lack of awareness of what the specific culture of the company is. Although it can be observed via the behaviours of employees, leaders are often blind to it until something unexpected and critical for the organisation happens. As it was the case for Uber and United Airlines. But waiting for such a wake-up call might be lethal as the company may not be able to readjust the culture in time and recover from the public blow.
Even when most of the “right” ingredients were implemented, most corporate culture changes fail anyway. And the quintessential trap is always the same: the culture of a company is a multi-layered assemblage. Work on one layer at a time (such as the behaviours) and you’ll have results. However, after a while, other layers that were unchanged (values, vision…) will collide and counteract the initial results. These various elements of corporate culture move at different speeds. They don’t even have the same plasticity and are driven by factors that can be very counter-intuitive. In the end, avoiding a full-stack approach to corporate culture change is a rookie mistake. Let’s see then how to deal with it…
After a few years designing and supporting reverse mentoring programmes, many of the same issues keep coming back. Reverse mentoring is often a great strategy to support the digital transformation of an organisation since it connects senior decision makers with junior digital natives. The idea is simple, by encouraging cross-generational discussions and experience sharing the organisation gains in agility in the digital era. However, in reality, many issues cloud this simple logic and we are going to explore why that happens and how to get over it.
When dealing with corporate culture change, companies usually choose among three main strategies. Every one of them has obvious benefits but often is badly implemented because the overall logic of culture change is not understood. One of the usual trap is that culture change is often too directive, and directing hundreds or thousands of people to behave differently, to think differently, to make different decisions, to have risk mindset… becomes an impossible task. Here we’ll explore the three usual ways to change organisational culture follow, see their benefits, and why they fail. This will lead us in a follow up article to open a different approach more rooted in how the organisation’s DNA and its culture intertwine.