Exploring organizational culture and collaborative innovation

In my previous post, I reinforced the importance of building cross-cultural dimensions into collaborative innovation to accommodate different ways of thinking.

While it could be argued that by studying local cultures before you understand headquarters, you’re putting the cart before the horse, I would argue that a central culture cannot be defined before you know the global parts.

Anyone who has worked for a decentralized corporation knows that innovation culture can be widely distributed across local operations with only a margin of guidance from the center. On the other hand, in many enterprises, headquarters drives innovation through a collaborative effort policed by C-level innovation officers, if not CEOs themselves.

Regardless of how innovation arises now, you must decide if your organization’s innovation culture is conducive to a headquarters-down approach, or whether decentralized oversight is more effective.

Geert Hofstede has developed a dimensional analysis of corporate culture that may help. This Organizational Cultural Model  consists of eight dimensions, to which I will apply definitions based on collaborative innovation strategy.

  • Means-oriented vs. Goal-oriented – Does the worker identify with the “how” of the innovation process or does the worker identify with the end result? In other words, can collaborative innovators tolerate some structure, or do they need to be emancipated so they can innovate without process limitations?
  • Easygoing work discipline vs. Strict work discipline – Is there a loose, unstructured, unpredictable environment for innovation, or are people very cost-conscious, punctual and serious about the way the innovation process occurs? In other words, is there constant fear that innovation will be too costly in terms of time and money?
  • Local vs. Professional – Does the employee identify with the boss/business unit or with a specific job function or skills set? Is there a feeling that the innovator is part of a multidisciplinary, collaborative innovation team with leadership that leverages this diversity? Or does the innovator feel that they are compartmentalized in an innovation process that is somewhat homogeneous from a skills set point of view.
  • Open system vs. Closed system – Is it believed that almost anyone would fit in the organization; or does the organization offer an air of exclusivity and compartmentalization? Is the organization open to bringing in outside talent as a catalyst for innovation and as a means of accelerating the process? Or do you typically rely on homegrown talent despite the possibility of agility limitations?
  • Employee-oriented vs. Work-oriented – Is the welfare of employees tantamount, even if it’s at the expense of the work? Or is there heavy pressure to perform the task, even at the expense of employees? This begs the question of whether you may lose innovation talent to companies with an employee-centric culture like Google or Yahoo.
  • Degree of acceptance of leadership style – How closely does the boss’ management style align with optimum performance of those working on innovation. Is leadership “outsourcing” the collaborative innovation strategy? Or does the innovation team view leadership as an integral member of the team, an inseparable element in the minutiae of the process?
  • Degree of identification with your organization – How closely do employees identify with the totality of the company versus the specific division or project they’re working on? In other words, is innovation viewed as a departmental or divisional endeavor, or does the innovation team look at the process as a an element in the overall corporate brand?

Simply knowing the elements that accelerate or decelerate collaboration within your company and beyond can solve many challenges before they happen and further your goal of forging an innovation culture.









  1. […] Exploring organizational culture and collaborative innovation […]


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