Culture Change – Call it for what it is

June 9, 2010
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I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately on creating a culture of innovation. But how? How do you “create culture”? Culture is a byproduct of behaviors and actions based on values. So when we talk about creating a culture, let’s call it for what it is — changing how people think, behave, and act. If your organization wants to change your culture or create a culture of innovation for example, the discussion must start with values and include specific behaviors.

Values without specific behaviors, are, well… fuzzy at best. For example, “We value trust, respect, teamwork, and innovation.”  Okay… what the hell does that mean in terms of specific behaviors? Seriously. What does “we value innovation” even mean if you don’t identify and model specific behaviors and actions to support your intention? In a recent post, the Incomplete Manifesto for Leading Change, I identified the following belief when leading change. No. 10 in the manifesto reads,

Demonstrate it.
Words are second fiddle to actually demonstrating, firsthand, the value.

In other terms, words like “create a culture of innovation” mean nothing without specific actions and behaviors. Posting a

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately on creating a culture of innovation. But how? How do you “create culture”? Culture is a byproduct of behaviors and actions based on values. So when we talk about creating a culture, let’s call it for what it is — changing how people think, behave, and act. If your organization wants to change your culture or create a culture of innovation for example, the discussion must start with values and include specific behaviors.

Values without specific behaviors, are, well… fuzzy at best. For example, “We value trust, respect, teamwork, and innovation.”  Okay… what the hell does that mean in terms of specific behaviors? Seriously. What does “we value innovation” even mean if you don’t identify and model specific behaviors and actions to support your intention? In a recent post, the Incomplete Manifesto for Leading Change, I identified the following belief when leading change. No. 10 in the manifesto reads,

Demonstrate it.
Words are second fiddle to actually demonstrating, firsthand, the value.

In other terms, words like “create a culture of innovation” mean nothing without specific actions and behaviors. Posting a declaration on your web site that you value innovation or sending out a corporate announcement that creating a culture of innovation is a strategic priority this year will likely garner a lot of eyes rolling if you don’t haven’t designed a plan filled with specific behaviors and actions to back up your words.

So, where do you begin?

You start by talking to real people to find out where you’re at today.

In a recent post, Alan Webber, one of my favorite bloggers notes,

Leaders think their time is too valuable to waste rubbing shoulders with real people; corporate jets and limos, appointment books and private elevators are reality buffers.

I love this statement! If leaders want to “create a culture of innovation” they best find out how their folks see innovation today. Only then can they begin to design a set of values, actions, and behaviors. And with time, a culture will emerge out of those actions and behaviors.

Brue Mau nails it when he says,

“Design is the method by which we change things,” he says. “So if you’re thinking about changing things, you’re going to use a design method or it’s going to be accidental. Accidental may or may not be helpful, but design certainly will be. Design is about making things exactly as you want them.”

To design, you must first listen and understand. If you’re looking to change your culture or create a culture of innovation, call it for what it is — a desire to design a new set of behaviors and actions that encourages, supports, and enables innovation. To do that, you need to change peoples’ thinking, actions, and behaviors (no small task there — I’ll write more about that in my next post).

Have a good week everyone. Cheers ~

Melissa