We take our inspiration from proven innovators, such as Pixar and 3M, trying to copy what has made them famous. But it can be hard to instil an innovation culture into an organisation—something like getting a leopard to change its spots. Better to understand the culture you have, and then tweak it in ways which will make it more innovative, than to tilt at the windmill of wholesale transformation.
What drives a organisational culture to innovation seems to be a reoccurring theme over lunchtime beers. Just as different people had different characters, so do companies, and even countries.
There’s an interesting documentary, Mondovino, put together by an Italian bloke, looking at the globalisation of the wine industry. As he travels around the world visiting different wine regions we get a peek into how each country is driven to create wine.
- France focuses on the region and magic of the wine maker.
- US is concerned with the market, and the challenge of making a blend that will resonate with consumers, while
- Australia takes an unromantic but pragmatic view of wine making, focused on making the most of what we have.
At a very glib level you could say:
- The US tends toward market (marketing) driven, trying to understand what will sell.
- France is idea driven (academic even), interested in the ideas behind the solution.
- Australia is pragmatic (outcome driven), wanting to create a workable solution today.
All approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses, and innovate in different ways, working with their environment to innovate, rather than against it.
All too often our best efforts to create an innovation culture—stealing ideas form the likes of Pixar or 3M—seems to stall. Or, even worse, come under attack from our own people. Just as the wine industry in different countries have different cultures, so do our companies. Taking a market driven approach to creating win in France will have limited success. Trying to impose a new innovation culture that is incompatible with your existing culture will see similar frustrations.
The challenge is to understand what drives your existing culture, and then innovate in ways that work with its natural inclinations, rather than against them.