Creating a Successful and Innovative Organisational Culture - 3 Simple Elements

I have recently been involved in a project seeking views from over 100 successful international experts in human resources and leadership. You will hear more about the project in the second quarter of next year. I will keep you posted.

What I want to talk about in this article is what these experts, who have spent a lifetime in managing multinational companies, reminded me about creating company culture: Make it Simple!

It is indeed, so simple to create a company culture where people feel safe, engaged and innovative. I know there are thousands of books, blogs and articles on company culture. When I typed company culture on google search it came up with 1,470,000,000 results within 52 seconds! So, one might argue everything in the world that could be said about company culture has already been said! One might be right!  However, it is not what you say but how you structure it is important, isn’t it?

According to Frances Frei and Anne Morris at Harvard Business Review:

“Culture guides discretionary behaviour and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is, of course, most of the time.”

It is with that culture comes engagement which itself brings productivity and results in innovation. The more engaged people are, the more involved they are and the more “free” and innovative they can be. It is obvious disengaged people will not be innovative!  We all know that innovation is at the heart of every business and so are the employees. Or so, they should be!

How can we have a culture that is engaging people and supporting them to be innovative then? Here are the 3 simple elements of a great culture:

1-    Communication: I can’t emphasize enough how important communication is in creating a culture of success. Communication may mean a lot of different things to different people but my simple view is basically clear guidelines, listening to people rather than dictating to them what to do, being honest and fair, respecting people, building trust and transparency.  You might add many other things into this mix. But the truth of the matter is people do not need much guidance in communicating with each other. So, I always recommend to my clients to keep it simple and straight to the point.

2-    Agility: In today’s world an organisation needs to be agile to be successful. It also needs to be inclusive all the different cultures within itself. Therefore, diversity, respecting differences, valuing the differences and adapting to changing environments are the key elements for an organisation to be agile. If the culture of the organisation is agile, then that organisation will not have a serious  risks in facing with the challenges of the changing environment. If all the members of the organisation, regardless of their ethnicity, where they are based and what they do, feel they are included, they are respected and represented, then they will feel more engaged and help the organisation to be more agile. One size does not fit to everyone! Agility is an important asset for an organisation.

3-    Leadership: There is no way to create a well communicative and agile culture without leadership, a good one! People like to imitate their leaders. Leaders who live by the values and walk the talk will build trust. As we all know this is an important part of communication.  People will follow the leaders whom they trust and believe. If the leader is inclusive, the people feel they are respected. If the leader values diversity and encourages people to think laterally and “outside of the box”, then people will be more innovative.

As you can see, creating a corporate culture that results in innovation and success is not rocket science! It is just a simple matter of talking to people, trusting them and helping them to trust you, being agile to their needs as well as customers’ needs, being inclusive and walking the talk. That is how I help my clients in changing their organisational culture. As they say, less is more!

When talking and thinking about organisational culture, let’s never forget what Peter Drucker said about it: Culture eats strategy for breakfast!