Culture is a frequently referred business buzzword while talking about the functioning of any organization. So what does it mean when people say our organization has an ethical and innovative work culture or even toxic culture. Organizational culture is a system of shared principles and values, which forms the basis of how people conduct themselves in organizations. These shared values have a strong influence on the employees in the organization and determines how they dress, act, and perform their duties. Just like human personality every organization formulates an unique culture, which provides the behavioural premise within which the members of the organization operate. Culture is a behaviour garnered over a period of time hence we can say it is created by collective actions taken within the organization.
It is the responsibility of leaders and the executives to convey through their action the behavioural changes they want their subordinates and other members of the organization to emulate. To change how we behave is not easy, If a company has been doing something a certain way for a long time, it can be hard to get everyone on board with doing it differently. And that includes the business leaders. For example if in a company, board of executives decide to have a customer focused organizational culture, then executives have to schedule customers as a priority in their behaviour. At the agenda of every meeting some amount of time has to be devoted for discussing how to improve customer’s experience. They have to implement ways to develop personal interaction with customers let alone fielding calls from them to understand the ground reality Only then will the rest of organization follow the pattern and slowly it will take the shape of work culture.
Similarly if an organization has the intent of inculcating innovation in their style of functioning it cannot be achieved over the night. You cannot simply advice the subordinates to get out there and innovate. Innovative culture is a product of the practice that prevails throughout the organization. Unless there is an eagerness to have open and frank discussions about what separates great ideas from bad ones innovation is stifled. For innovation to become a habit there should be an environment where failure is accepted. If members of the organization aren’t pushing boundaries and sometimes failing along the way, probably they aren’t pushing hard enough. But by accepting and even celebrating a failed effort, innovation is promoted. While attempting to scale the tallest mountain, even if someone fall short of the summit, they create an experience that is useful to learn from and build upon. That’s what innovation is all about. And executives play an important role in promoting this culture.
Take the example of Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO is of the view that if his employees have one-in-ten chance of making a 100x return on an investment, he wants them to that that risk every time. But that means to reap the benefit Amazon has to be willing to fail nine out of 10 times. Traditionally run companies have an objective outlook towards outcomes as a result making this a challenging concept for them to follow. When failure is looked upon with derision and usually punished it won’t be surprising to see innovation cripple as a result. After all, who would be willing to rise up and try something new if authorities evaluate the failed attempts with strict measures.
To foster an innovative culture how the leaders react to those trying to innovate is essential for innovation to become a norm in the company. The same is true about any kind of culture: Behaviour of the leaders is a necessary factor in facilitating the process. In other words, if executives attempt to change the culture of the organization, first step should be to set a behavioural example through their actions for everyone else to follow.