Innovation and Culture - One Capability
Recently I was asked to give a talk to Plimmerton Rotary on Innovation and Culture. I started to prepare my notes as if Innovation and Culture were two separate capabilities in business. After all, you can have a great culture with no innovation and you can have innovation with no culture. Can’t you?
But no, not true anymore! The above might have been true before the era of disruption, before the rise of digital, before climate change started to affect business decisions. Is it true now? Probably not.
Innovation and Culture are now one capability - the single, most important capability that New Zealand businesses need in order to thrive and grow in this world of international trade and disruption!
Who Am I?
Up until recently I was the CEO of Tekron International Ltd and my mandate was to grow the business and to inject energy and process improvement into flagging sales. I achieved this through intense focus on innovation, culture and team dynamics.
I am a sales expert with 15 years’ experience in Tech sector in the U.K. and I’ve applied this expertise to help many businesses in NZ. I have found that NZ is worryingly weak on sales.
Why is Innovation so Important for NZ Business Success
We’re a small country a long way from much bigger markets
Our competition is often bigger and has advantages of scale and access to better skills and other resources
Price is usually not our best source of competitive edge and so we have to win on other factors
Disruption is everywhere and we could tackle this as we innovate but sadly innovation is often “silo’d” or is one person’s role - it’s not seen as shared with all of the team and it’s seen as separate rather than integral to the culture and the whole company.
In my experience Kiwis are naturally good when it comes to invention but not so good when it comes to competing (aka selling)
Why is Culture So Important?
It’s hard – it’s led from the top and it can be very difficult to achieve consistency - we managers and leaders do like to cut corners sometimes!
Young people (our future) want to connect with the business purpose in a way my generation did not.
The trend is for young people to be loyal to their skills and their careers – not so much to their employers.
The workforce is more mobile than ever and also, the skills we need are hard to find – we need to grow the staff we’ve got.
It’s fun when the atmosphere and the way we do things feels good.
Diversity and inclusivity are integral to the culture - minorities do not survive well when the culture is not inclusive and welcoming.
Why is it Impossible to Separate Innovation and Culture?
Diversity and Inclusion = Innovation = Culture
An organisation that nurtures diversity, respect, motivation, commitment, drive and yes, kindness, is an organisation in which innovation can and will flourish.
People will join and stay because it feels good to be a part of it.
People will excel because they feel good.
The organisation will become an employer of choice and new employees will therefore be chosen from the best available.
People can perform as individuals but also as an integral part of the purpose and direction of the organisation.
If Recognition, Reward and Respect are part of the culture people will deliver their best because it feels good – culture creates energy.
Why is Having Both SO Important to NZ Business Success, Especially Globally?
The only way to achieve amazing innovation and make it less about luck is to have an amazing team and for them to be ready and willing to embrace change and innovation and be resilient to it.
Being a small country can give us a competitive edge and we need to take advantage of that:
o We can react quicker than large, multinational entities
o We can be more agile, more mobile, more flexible (as long as we maintain Business Fitness)
To maintain Business Fitness it comes down to actively and consistently building and nurturing culture and innovation out of which will come effective teams and strong results.
As an organisation’s success is driven and directed from the top so must culture and innovation be driven and directed from the top.