Catrinas_2As I travel around speaking about intrapreneurship, I am being increasingly asked about our work in organizational health, the Quadruple Bottom Line (QBL) and (even more so in 2015) mindfulness.

Each of these three elements rely heavily on culture: the right kind of culture to support your colleagues; the social commitment; accommodating your corporate impact in the planet; developing the best environment to be future-facing (innovation & intrapreneurship).

Wherever you look in 2015, we acknowledge the importance of a company’s culture but tend to consider it to be a ‘soft’ issue where culture can be left to look after itself.

This is a strange corporate phenomenon: if we accept that corporate strategy is crucial to our enterprise, leaders and managers hide away (usually offsite) for days at a time to explore it. Likewise, the strength of our partners / suppliers can impact how we develop a sharing economy business (e.g. Uber) – and so great emphasis is placed on the supply chain management.

Yet culture is expected to look after itself.

In the book Built to Last, authors James Collins and Jerry Porras referred to world famous companies with a stellar brand image, and be at least 50 years old. A nice thought – but for every Disney and Wal-Mart, we have a Kodak and a Woolworths.

50-year old companies (at the moment) are relatively irrelevant compared to Instagram, Uber and Snapchat. In fact, the outgoing CEO of Cisco, John Chamber stated in his final speech that almost 40% of companies that are around today will be gone in 10 years because they won’t be able to adapt quickly enough to the pace of change in technology.

[pullquote]”More than one-third of businesses today will not survive the next 10 years. The only ones that will survive will turn their companies into digital, techie versions of themselves, and many of will fail trying. Forty percent of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years”. (John Chambers, July 2015)[/pullquote]

What made such organizations as Disney and makes such enterprises as Apple is the culture – not the original business plan (after all, for example, 3M was a built on innovation not a business plan). Take look at Apple, Google, FaceBook or LinkedIn… and it’s culture.

Organizations with the predisposition (culture) towards spotting and capitalizing on customer / market trends will be the ones to benefit. Chambers strongly pushes the point that technology will be key (as you would expect from Cisco) but consider the current growth enterprises: Uber is a technology platform pulling taxi customers and drivers together; Airbnb is a technology platform bringing accommodation and guests together; LinkedIn is a technology platform with the majority of content supplied by it’s customers.

The next tranche of market disruptors for, as an example, the financial sector… are technology driven.

A quote from Chambers is pretty pertinent to the public sector too:
“Companies fail because they keep doing the right thing for too long… you have to disrupt or be disrupted.”

This begs the question: “do you have a culture that encourages disruption and also actively embraces technology?”

nodiingdogsSome readers will nod their heads automatically. So would ask again…”really? do you talk about encouraging disruption or do you provide the infrastructure, physical space, training, resources and budget for it to be happening?”

Fewer people nod their heads at this point.

And this is the downside of culture: for a positive, powerful culture you need commitment.

Weak leadership allows (ostensibly gives permission to) poor behaviours that can undermine what you are about. People with their own personal agendas and / or empires to build actively block new culture – they slowly suffocate ideas with unfit-for-purpose process, corporate myths, quality standards, endless review meetings…

Weak leaders allow current corporate culture to attack anything new or different.

So when I am speaking to leaders about their organization, I am less interested in their business plan and I am far more interested in the organisational health – how the enterprise lives and breathes; how the current enterprise deals with change.

If you are to be one of the 60% of Chambers’ surviving organizations, you need to be innovating and exploring – technology is not the be-all and end-all… but it IS important.

The survivors will have a culture of survival – kill or be killed; for the greater good; we’re all in this together. At no point will the survivors be the ones employing naysayers and idea-killers with a sole self-interest.

Contact Neil if you are interested in being one of the 60%.

Culture vs Innovation
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