Leadership, Organizational Culture and Innovation – Kiesha Farnum, Guest Contributor

Culture is a fundamental organizational feature which constantly impacts your teams’ interpretations of their environment and influences their behaviors and actions. Culture can be defined as the customs, ideas, norms and social behavior of a group, organization or society.

An innovative culture as a manifestation of organizational structure is an underlying element of the creation and embracing of innovation in an organization. An organizational structure that breeds innovation has a structured innovation process and demonstrates a type of leadership that becomes second nature to its operations. (Reid and De Brentani, 2004)

As a leader are you promoting a culture that nurtures innovation? Does your leadership empower your staff to be more creative? Are they allowed the space to exercise that creativity and harness innovation?

The significance of innovation as an organizational outcome and the fostering of other advantageous values that promote innovation leads to a culture which propagates different types of innovations. Innovation is about doing things differently, stepping outside the box and doing things that have never been done before. (VISIT - caribbeanleadership.org/en/forms/registration-form)

The significance of innovation as an organizational outcome and the fostering of other advantageous values that promote innovation leads to a culture which propagates different types of innovations. Innovation is about doing things differently, stepping outside the box and doing things that have never been done before. (VISITcaribbeanleadership.org/en/forms/registration-form)

But why is innovation important in the public sector? Well, according to the EU Public Sector Innovation Score Board (2012) innovation has a progressive impact, enhancing access to information, increasing user satisfaction, promoting seamless and quicker delivery of services for citizens and business. A public service that is characterized by better-quality and innovative administrative and procurement solutions help to enhance competitiveness, decrease corruption and bribery and enhance the innovative performance of companies in that society. It also promotes a more motivated and satisfied workforce, which in turn fuels more innovation.

We know that there are number of obstacles to innovation and more often than not these barriers are internal. Lack of executive management support, resistance by staff, a risk-averse culture and I am sure you can name many others all have a negative impact, not only on innovation but on public sector efficiency and effectiveness in general. (Büschgens et al, 2013)

As a leader what can you do? How can you develop and sustain an organizational culture that creates a stable axis on which innovation driven beliefs and values revolve? What can you do to lead your teams to innovation success?

  • Create an environment that equips staff with the resources and the tools to push boundaries, challenge the status quo and realize growth. Leave little room for “it’s always been done this way”, challenge norms and conventional thinking – looking outside the box.
  • Give your staff opportunities to grow, make them feel respected and valued, clearly articulating roles and responsibilities and giving them the room to execute it.
  • Innovative leaders know that innovation cannot evolve in a vacuum. Instead of focusing on turf and territory they see the benefits of collaboration, recognizing it as an opportunity to sound out weaknesses and threats and capitalize on strengths and opportunities. To this end they actively seek out and build a competent, active and communicative cadre of people and organizations.
  • Leaders that promote innovation embrace diversity acknowledging that it takes divergent viewpoints to fully navigate the complexity of technological, economic and other challenges facing today’s public sector.
  • An innovative leader abandons low-trust, high-control models of leadership and empower their staff to be creative, nurturing the skills and competencies they need to take their careers to the next level.
  • The innovative leader is an effective change manager. He/she can navigate resistance to new ideas and generate acceptance and buy-in for innovative change.
  • Innovative leaders are taking the lead in innovation. They do not only look to the staff for “bright ideas” but they contribute unconventional and new ideas of their own.

Remember, innovation is not a once off thing. It is an iterative process in which entities several generations old must constantly strive to go above and beyond what has always been done.

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