Most CEOs will agree that a strong corporate culture is essential to building an innovative company, maybe even the most important aspect of the business. A study at the University of Minnesota* explored this:
"Corporate culture is, above all, the most important factor in driving innovation," said Rajesh Chandy, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management said in a story on Science Daily. "Firm-level factors are more important than anything else — even location — in predicting radical innovation."
In Chandry’s words all innovative companies share essential traits. They have strong, supportive internal structures headed by product champions. They provide powerful incentives to inspire creative, innovative thinking. And they move fast, pivoting quickly around changes in the market.
The center of innovation is in the firm — not in the country or city or industry in which it works.
There are a number of reasons why that would be true, but one factor is often underappreciated: A well-defined, clearly articulated expression of your corporate culture helps attract the kind of people who drive innovation.
Talented, overachievers are drawn to companies who share their beliefs. In his book, Eating the Big Fish, Adam Morgan writes about brands, but the basic principle applies to recruiting talent as well. His second credo in Big Fish is Build a Lighthouse Identity. The idea being if your company has strongly held beliefs and you communicate those beliefs clearly — you will attract customers and employees who share your philosophy. It’s about helping people navigate to you, as opposed to you always reaching out to your customers and prospective employees.
In a recent episode of our podcast, FitzMartin CEO Sean Doyle sat down with Luke Allen, the CEO of OHD, an international manufacturer and distributor of medical device instrumentation. In their conversation they talk at some length about building a powerful, innovative sales culture. Luke makes the point that your culture actually helps bring in the kind of people who make the culture strong, in a kind of self-fulfilling cycle.
The hard part for many firms, of course, is articulating those core beliefs that drive the organization. We’re not talking about those insipid corporate mission statements that so many companies create; we’re talking about the core beliefs that you are unwilling to compromise. Even at the cost of a sale. Especially at the cost of a sale. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice for your core beliefs, how strong can they be?
Check out the conversation between Luke and Sean; we think you’ll find it interesting. Is your corporate culture helping drive both customers and employees to you? If not, what can you do to ensure that it does?
*University of Minnesota. "Corporate Culture Is The Most Important Factor In Driving Innovation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 November 2008.