A study by talent consulting services provider Korn Ferry revealed that while 100% of executives from more than 500 global businesses believe company culture is important or extremely important to organizational performance, only 32% believe that the organization’s company culture and business strategy are in alignment.
The problem isn’t recognizing the importance of developing a company culture that supports the business strategy, fosters innovation, protects intellectual property, and drives profitable results. The problems come with the next steps.
According to the study, 76% of executives claim that their organizations’ leaders have identified and communicated an organizational culture, but only 35% say that the majority of their employees are able to articulate the organization’s culture to a great extent. Futhermore, only 22% of executives believe that employee behavior generally aligns with what leaders say is the culture.
Compare those statistics to the number or executives who believe their companies use culture as a key lever for driving organizational transformation—63%, and the gap between company culture and business strategy becomes abundantly clear.
Developing a Company Culture of Innovation
As Andrew J. Sherman, author of Harvesting Intangible Assets, explains:
Investments in training, commitments to empowerment and delegation, and the development of meaningful succession plans are all critical elements of this process [of developing a culture or innovation]. … Participants in the process must understand the critical differences between simple ideation or invention and the more complex tasks of sustainable innovation and value creation, but you can’t have one without the other.”
To develop a company culture that supports innovation, you need to start by prioritizing innovation at the executive level. As the Korn Ferry research shows us, executives understand the value of company culture, particularly in fostering innovation, but they can’t bring the concept of culture to life. Words on paper—policies and procedures—are the starting point, but too often, those words have little value because the company’s leaders don’t live the culture they’re tasked to promote to employees.
Making a culture tangible is the hurdle that stops most companies from bringing it to life. To develop a company culture that prioritizes innovation as a source of profits, you need to start by following Sherman’s advice and “empower people to let down their guards.” If you don’t empower people to make decisions so they can stop spending every minute thinking about the present and spend more time thinking about the future, innovation will cease.
Additionally, educate your employees about the value of the company’s innovation, particularly its intangible assets such as intellectual property. When employees understand why innovation matters, why they should protect trade secrets, how to do it, and how it affects them personally, they’re far more likely to take responsibility for it.
Consider using an incentive program to jump start the development of your innovation-focused company culture. Reward employees who demonstrate their commitment to living the culture and supporting the company’s efforts to reach its goals. Hold them accountable for their actions as they relate to protecting your company’s innovations, intangible assets, and intellectual property.
Company culture needs to start at the top and trickle down to every level of the organization. It requires nurturing to be sustainable, but in the end, the company’s results will improve. The value of your innovation and intellectual profits will increase, and every employee will benefit from their ongoing efforts.
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