Your Culture is Your Most Valuable Product

As a leader, the most valuable commodity you produce isn’t the product you make or the service you provide.

More valuable is the culture you create.

True, your company generates products or delivers services, but it’s your company that produces or delivers them. And it’s your culture that makes the company.

That’s why your culture needs to be your best product.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier, the co-founders of the software company Basecamp, make this very point in their new book It Doesn't Have To Be Crazy At Work. They describe how thinking of their organizational culture as a product was transformative for their business.

Most business leaders readily admit that if they want to make their product or service better, then they have to keep tweaking it; and re-tweaking, revising, reiterating. But they don't apply the same rigour to their culture.

Instead, they allow their culture develop by chance.

When you start to think of your organization as a product you start to ask all sorts of interesting questions....

  • Is it easy to use?

  • Does it do what you intend it to?

  • Are people using it for purposes other than what you intended?

  • Does it crash occasionally?

  • Does it need a reboot?

But the problem most leaders face is that culture is this amorphous entity that is both difficult to describe and daunting to shift. Even thinking about embarking on a culture change program gives most leaders a headache.

So we move on to other, more easily digestible issues with more apparent solutions, and we leave our most valuable business asset to either atrophy or morph organically on its own, without supervision because we can feel powerless to change it.

But what if you’re not powerless?

What if shifting your organizational culture was as easy as sorting through a deck of cards?

The SHIFT CARD DECK is the tool that makes that easy.

My colleague Alexandra Hatcher and I researched dozens and dozens of companies and non-profit organizations, and made a comprehensive list of over 250 commonly held organizational values.

That seemed like too many. So we distilled that list to what experience has shown to be the 81 most essential values. We verified what we found by researching the best academic articles and tested those findings against writings from thought leaders in the consulting industry.

But we decided that even 81 values are too many to keep in your head at any one time, so we successfully grouped these 81 values into nine categories.

A standard deck of playing cards has four suits, but we decided nine categories allowed us to be a little more specific. We also discovered that those additional and carefully defined categories inspired in depth conversations about culture.

We came to call these categories the “Major Cards.” These are the guiding values that leaders can use to turn their groups into high performing teams.

Let’s look briefly at these nine Major Cards so we can envision how the values within each allow leaders to leverage these qualities in their organizational culture.


Values That Connect Us To Our Goals

When we display the nine Major cards for prospective clients, we inevitably begin with purpose, because you need a strong central purpose to guide your actions and galvanize your team.

Employees get inspired when they align the work they do every day with a larger purpose. They are more likely to succeed when they are assured the work they are doing is relevant and they are making a difference to advance the organizations they serve. As Ken & Scott Blanchard observed, “When people see that connection, they … feel the importance, dignity and meaning in their job.”

But the key question has always been how? By purpose we mean more than a boilerplate vision statement full of feel-good platitudes and motherhood statements. A sense of purpose is more than a sentence. It’s reflected in how you talk about your company and the impact you want to make on the world. We’ve identified 8 elements that high performance leaders use to craft and communicate their purpose.

  • · Passion: Passionate workers are committed to achieving higher levels of performance because they are driven by a deep alignment between their personal values and the work itself.

  • · Aspiration: High performing organizations harness a team’s greater aspirations and ensure they align with existing strategic goals.

  • · Inspiration: Linking the work to the organization’s purpose gives everyone a dream that goes beyond the individual, the team, or even the organization.

  • · Authenticity: For organizations, authenticity means everyone (leaders especially) must be living values in a way that is real.

  • · History & Tradition: A shared understanding of the history of an organization and a communal appreciation for its traditions are powerful bonds that leaders can use to unite team members and successfully leverage performance.

  • · Story: Stepping out of the day to day for a moment to elaborate, refine, or evaluate the characters, the setting, or the plot of our work/life gives your team a powerful perspective.

  • · Respect: The Golden Rule (treating your colleagues as you would like to be treated) is as important in work as it is in life. Actively and positively acknowledging and recognizing those around you increases loyalty and productivity.

  • · Wisdom: Organizational wisdom is the ability of leadership to put all of the organization’s values into practice, to nurture, support, and advance the purpose of the organization.

Engagement can evaporate rapidly when an organization loses its way or fails to live up to its declared purpose. The good news is, that you can renew engagement by getting clear on purpose and by communicating it effectively to your team.

Putting it into action:

Take an informal poll of your peers and team members. Ask them their view of the organization’s purpose. Does it align with the organization’s stated Vision and Mission? Does it align with your own understanding of the organization’s purpose? Identifying the similarities and gaps gives you a good idea of where to start with clarification.


Values That Focus Our Attention On How We Accomplish Our Goals

While Purpose is central to your organizational culture, it is meaningless if your culture doesn't also value Strategy.

Today’s business environment requires a robust strategy to define a company’s work. Strategy is understanding the big picture, knowing the goals the company wants to achieve, and the best tactics to fulfil the vision.

Working with purpose and intent keeps leadership mindful of their decisions. It ensures everyone’s actions contribute to the strength of the organization.

Organizations that prioritize their strategy value eight elements that allow them to effectively communicate that strategy to their teams. This motivates their teams to effectively execute the strategy.

  • · Simplicity: Finding the core of the problem or distilling key messages to a single core value allows high performers to remember the message and channel their energy to what's important.

  • · Focus: Administrative activities are compelling because they are urgent and give immediate reward when accomplished. The strategic work, in contrast, is important, but not urgent. It takes discipline to continually focus attention on the things that will build the business over time.

  • · Alignment: Organizations gain a major competitive advantage when individuals and teams are aligned with the strategy, goals, and purpose of an organization. Team members are more engaged because they have a clear sense of their work and how that work connects to the organization’s purpose.

  • · Results oriented: Every strategy needs to drive towards results, and few strategies can be properly evaluated unless the results are measured against clearly articulated targets. Organizations that are results-oriented place a high priority on collecting the required data, measurements, and analyzing their organization against industry standards.

  • · Accountability: Accountability demands taking personal responsibility for following through on commitments and obligations. High performers know that peers will rightfully expect proactive communication to keep them informed of the status of each project.

  • · Commitment: When a team is not committed to the organization’s strategy, they can be paralyzed by a paradox of choice. Virtually every suggestion, idea, or activity seems worth consideration. Doubt creeps in, poisoning certainty and crippling momentum. Commitment to your work, the strategy, and the organization provides a paradoxical freedom.

  • · Agility: No plan survives first contact with the enemy, as the saying goes. As new market research opens new opportunities, organizations must have the capacity to make regular adjustments to their business plan.

  • · Context: Understanding the context and business environment that informs strategy is vital. External factors that influence a business (competitors, regulators, suppliers, customers and evolving technologies) can work together with internal factors (timelines, capacity, hierarchies, procedures and culture). Each can influence the others and affect the organization. High-performance leaders take a broad 360° view of the current context and consider its impact on the organization’s long-term strategic plan.

Strategy is something you live, not something stored away in a document. Strategy is useless without the commitment to see it through; lack of commitment shows up when the organization’s strategic plan is applied haphazardly. It requires constant re-alignment to ensure that everyone remains accountable for its success.

Putting it into action:

Ask your team if they can connect the work they do every day with the strategy. If they are unable to do so, it may be time to apply these eight elements in partnership with your team. You may find they get increasingly engaged and enthusiastic about their work when they can see a direct connection between the strategy and the work they do everyday.


Values That Bind Our Group

Teamwork is essential to maximize impact in any line of business. And to be an effective team, everyone has to set aside individual self-interest and focus on the success of the group.

We are evolutionarily designed for teamwork.

A high-performing culture can leverage our built-in traits to turn a loose collection of individuals into an elite and effective force by focusing on the following:

  • · Trust: Team members who trust their leaders are demonstratively more productive. They collaborate more efficiently, are more effective problem solvers, participate more readily in brainstorming activities, and have more energy at work. They also experience significantly less chronic stress in the workplace, meaning they are generally healthier and take fewer sick days.

  • · Recognition: Recognition is a major contributor to building teams because it bonds team members together, shows that the work they’ve done contributes to the company’s goals, and demonstrates that the team leader cares about them and their work.

  • · Challenge: Challenge and stress aren't always bad things when delivered in reasonable doses. A team that strives for a goal that’s just out of reach and succeeds will learn that they can go beyond their perceived limitations. This is the same challenge that bonds warriors when they return from battle or protesters when they turn their attention to the next cause.

  • · Relationships: Building healthy relationships is one of the most important factors in creating engaged and motivated employees. Without social bonds between team members, work can become lifeless, teams can disintegrate, and turnover can increase. Conversely, strengthening relationships motivates teams and increases their effectiveness.

  • · Vulnerability: Nothing builds trust like showing vulnerability. It reveals us as human, humble, and accessible. However, showing vulnerability to colleagues can be difficult. Asking for help, far from being a sign of weakness, is a sign of self-awareness, humility, and maturity.

  • · Transparency: One of the greatest contributors to building trust in any organization is a commitment to transparency. It increases alignment, drives engagement, and leads to better solutions. When it comes to transparency, great leaders lead by example.

  • · Candid Dialogue: The work that needs to get done in a workplace cannot be achieved without safety, openness, and non-judgement. Boundaries need to be defined, involve some flexibility and expectations must be humane, reasonable and clearly articulated. In a psychologically safe workplace, people feel excited and encouraged to share potentially wrong, risky, sensitive or creative ideas without reprisal.

  • · Play: Play is the fertilizer for brain growth. Encouraging play, zest, and delight in our work results in increased performance. It strengthens social and emotional connection as well as cooperation. Play can also drive home abstract concepts and complex issues that may otherwise be difficult to comprehend.

A well-known African proverb says it all:

“If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.”

Intentionally focusing on Teamwork ensures that you’re not the one doing all the heavy lifting in the organization.

Putting it into action:

If you meet with your team on a regular basis, bring a different card each week to the conversation, in the order presented here. Invite your team to share stories of how they see each value enacted in the work of their peers. Then look for opportunities where you can recognize and reinforce these values through the week.


Values That Drive Us As Individuals

A team is made up of individuals, and each one is … well, individual.

Individualists are highly motivated and, sometimes, that’s exactly what your culture needs to drive it to the next level.

Nurturing individuals and prizing their distinctive strengths is crucial for any organization. Enlightened self-interest can help someone see that what’s good for the organization is also good for them.

  • · Competition: Fostering a culture that values healthy competition pushes individuals to experiment more and find creative solutions to challenges. Applied correctly by a leader, a competitive spirit can assist employees in setting and achieving stretch goals.

  • · Satisfaction: They experience job or career satisfaction when they feel they are making a positive contribution to something bigger than themselves. Aligning their individual interests to the company’s larger purpose or, failing that, to the success of the team, drives engagement.

  • · Initiative: Initiative makes teams more agile, responsive, and resilient. Leaders can support initiative with appropriate resources, clear direction, and an accurate understanding of the scope of the work or project.

  • · Autonomy: Autonomy is one of the most important factors in job satisfaction and employee retention. Employees are more likely to be engaged with their work when they are trusted with the responsibility of coming up with solutions on their own.

  • · Opportunity & Reward: Emerging high performers look for career development opportunities; if they can't find these internally, they’ll look elsewhere. Successful organizational cultures provide employees with a clear path that rewards strong work with greater opportunities for advancement.

  • · Individual Growth: For some industries, the most important piece of infrastructure may be its people: High-performance cultures invest in people as well as in infrastructure. The most forward thinking companies encourage team members to grow as professionals and as human beings in equal measure.

  • · Status: Status is most often interpreted as positional status, but knowledge, resources, wisdom, and social connections can each confer status depending on the context. When one’s sense of status is engaged and rewarded, individuals enter into a maximum reward state. High-performance leaders recognize that status isn't the enemy: it's a tool that drives performance.

  • · Work-Life-Health Integration: Balancing work, life, and health has never been easy, but it’s also never been harder than in the 24/7 age of instant messaging. A high-performance culture encourages successful separation of professional and personal lives so that employees can care for each without allowing one to have a negative effect on the other.

Be careful however: there is a very strong Flip Side to the values in this suit of cards.

Fostering individualism can backfire. You may end up reinforcing behaviours that cause the Individualist to stop working well with others.

Putting it into action:

Build a matrix that lists each of your team members on the vertical axis and each of these eight values on the horizontal axis. Identify which value is the main driver for each member of your team. Spend the week nourishing that value for each team member in turn.


Values That Focus Our Attention On Our Customer

It’s no coincidence that on our diagram we place the customer in the center. We believe that every organization needs to place to their customer at the centre of their operations.

It doesn't matter whether you refer to your customers as consumers, clients, stakeholders, users or internal departments. It is vital to keep a clear line of sight to their needs and preferences.

Organizations that lose touch with what their “customers” are working to accomplish are in jeopardy. When an organization begins to falter, refocusing on the customers’ needs usually highlights the way forward.

Many businesses claim to be customer-focused, but not every company walks the talk.

We’ve found that high-performing cultures build a strong relationship with those they serve by leveraging these eight cultural values.

  • · Listening: A high-performing culture is always listening to its customers. Its members acknowledge that a deep understanding the customer’s experience, both negative and positive, their challenges become the quickest route to improvement and innovation.

  • · Empathy: Most customers value an empathetic response more than an immediate solution. Stressing empathy in your team and the ability to not only understand another’s feelings but to share those feelings, is vital to building a lasting relationship with your customer.

  • · Compassion: Creating a compassionate workplace increases both customer and employee retention. When an organization’s leaders are compassionate and caring, the people who work with customers tend to be compassionate as well.

  • · Patience: Patience can lessen the stress around difficult situations, decrease anger and conflict, and provide the time necessary to work through an issue or see difficulty from a new perspective.

  • · Service: Leaders who focus on service recognize that providing a memorable experience not only secures the loyalty of the customer or team member in front of them, it wins them the next one, because it increases the likelihood of a referral.

  • · Responsiveness: Most individuals value their time more than anything else. Responding to a customer or to someone within the organization with a timely (and appropriate) response is essential.

  • · Quality: In most instances a business either competes on quality or price. When competing on price, there’s always the potential that a customer will leave when a better price comes along. A commitment to quality ensures customer loyalty.

  • · Flexibility: Flexibility is the ability of an organization and its people to make the internal shifts necessary to adjust their services or products in response to changes in the internal or external environment.

If your team needs to refocus its attention on how it meets the needs of its most important consumers, clients, stakeholders, users or internal departments, you may need to work with these eight values.

Putting it into action:

While interacting with a client or customer, try to observe which value you’re using most often. Which are you not using as much? Or at all? Is this a “blind spot” for you, or your organization?

During your very next interaction, be intentional about focusing on the value you don't use as often. What’s changed in your behaviour now that you’ve prioritized it? How is their response different?


Values That Sustain Our Social Purpose

Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer “a nice to have.”

An increasing number of studies and articles remind us that corporate and social responsibility is important factors for many customers and employees alike.

Studies show these organizations experience an increase in financial performance and employee loyalty and have a positive impact on employee behaviours. But it requires more than a superficial commitment. It has to be a lived value.

An organization that focuses on everybody’s needs makes an important statement about how it sees its place in the world and our collective responsibility to the future. When courageous and skillful leaders use their position and influence as opportunity to change things for the better, organizations can create abundance for a larger proportion of society.

The values in the Society suit of cards are unique in that no single organization embraces all of them at once. Rather, an organization that is focused on society, may be driven by one, or at most two, of these eight elements of society.

  • · Social Responsibility: An organization that embraces social responsibility pledges to contribute to positive social change by addressing community issues. They may adopt an existing cause, become a major ambassador for an identified community need, or pilot a transformative approach to social challenges.

  • · Environmental Sustainability: Organizations that are mindful of environmental sustainability factor their impact on their surroundings into decision-making. Rather than outsourcing sustainability to third parties, they actively work towards minimizing the negative impacts of their activities on air, water, land, natural resources, flora, fauna, humans, and the built environment.

  • · Citizenship: An organization that focuses on citizenship moves beyond sponsorships and surface engagements. They create spaces for conversations and take a public stance to influence local, regional, or federal government policy. Employees and stakeholders are drawn to these bodies and become loyal precisely because they are vocal.

  • · Spirituality: In a spiritual organization, employees are welcome to bring their moral, spiritual, religious, or cultural lens into their work. For these organizations, the distinction between the secular and the spiritual is a false dichotomy. The work is the spirituality and the spirituality is the work.

  • · Constituency: Employees of organizations that serve or represent a unique group, segment, or constituency within their marketplace, community, or society experience a unique relationship with their stakeholders. Fuelled by this, employees of the organization are empowered by connection, bound by duty, and emboldened by their social role.

  • · Safety: This kind of organization and its members find a sense of purpose in keeping the whole of society safe from physical, environmental, mental, or emotional harm. When that secure environment is threatened, the organization cannot rest until it is restored to everyone's satisfaction.

  • · Community: Employees who are connected and committed to their community are healthier and more engaged. These benefits accrue regardless of if community is defined by geography, shared interests, practice, faith, ethnicity, or education.

  • · Abundance: An abundance mentality believes resources and opportunities are unlimited. In this view, the more you give away, the more comes to you. Referrals to competitors result in satisfied customers who return to you; sharing resources with another department enriches the organization as a whole; and sharing knowledge results in becoming viewed as an expert.

As Mr. Spock, the first officer of the fictional U.S.S. Enterprise, famously said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” But changing society takes time and requires the long view. An organization must be administratively and financially sound if it wants to have an effective and sustained impact.

Putting it into action:

If your organization serves society in one way, make sure that each member of your team understands this and is connected to that activity. Connect them to this value by sharing any admissions you receive to an event you’ve sponsored. Or encourage everyone to volunteer with a social service agency as a teambuilding effort.


Values That Sustain Our Organization

To maintain an organization, you must consistently monitor the fundamentals – finances, structures and processes – to identify emerging risks to the organization’s stability.

In fact, a focus on these eight values enables and empowers those involved to pursue the organization’s purpose and strategy.

  • · Profitability: No business can survive for a significant amount of time without making a profit. Even non-profits or B Corporations have to balance the books. At the same time, growth isn’t synonymous with profitability. To be successful and remain in business, profitability is both important and necessary.

  • · Financial Sustainability: Responsible leaders keep one eye on an organization’s current financial status and another on its future sustainability to ensure the longevity of the organization. They acknowledge that it may be necessary to take risks in order to grow, but they never lose sight of the danger of risking the organization’s future.

  • · Return on Investment (ROI): Prudent leaders regularly filter major decisions through the lens of a rigorous cost-benefit analysis. A rigorous analysis includes direct and indirect costs, opportunity costs, and the cost of potential risks.

  • · Efficiency and Effectiveness: Organizations that stress efficiency break down processes, seek to eliminate waste, and increase outputs with minimal effort. An emphasis on effectiveness allows organizations to focus on outcomes with the goal of ensuring that the effort required is geared towards the appropriate result.

  • · Risk-Awareness: When an organization is risk-aware, it actively seeks to recognize hazards and develop plans to avoid or mitigate hurdles that may be looming on the horizon or bubble up from within.

  • · Systems & Structures: When an organization’s structure doesn’t support its strategy, it’s hard to find the synergies necessary to excel. The business landscape changes rapidly and systems and structures that worked yesterday are virtually guaranteed not to work in the future. It’s vital to ensure that all parts of an organization’s intricate parts and interrelated steps work together.

  • · Succession Management: At its best, a succession management plan doesn't just manage change at the top tiers: It serves to guide the career ambitions of talent at all levels and supports their learning objectives.

  • · Governance: Responsible governance protects the rights of shareholders and stakeholders, safeguards the financial stewardship of the organization, sets the strategic vision for all to follow, and helps senior leaders excel.

The values in the Organization suit of cards often get a bad rap.

We view organizations which focus on profitability or who are risk-aware as stifling momentum and enthusiasm. But that’s often because corporations (or individuals within them) place too much emphasis on these values.

That doesn’t make them wrong. Like anything in life, these values require other values to balance them so that the organization can thrive and grow. But without attention to these fundamental values, no growth is possible.

Putting it into action:

Are there individuals within your organization who are typically focused on the organization’s fundamentals and as a result are viewed as a stick-in-the-mud? Or worse, as an enemy of innovation? These individuals may be over-focused on these values because they don’t feel heard. They serve a valuable function. Acknowledge them as such. You may find that they are more open to change once their values are honoured.


Values That Balance Our Organization And Our Individuals

In high performing organizations everyone operates with integrity and they are also aware that individual actions never exist in isolation.

Unintended and sometimes disastrous consequences can flow from seemingly harmless actions that are not aligned with the organization’s core values, mission and goals.

  • · Dignity: At its base, dignity believes that all people are worthy of respect. Within a work environment, dignity is connected not only to the people involved, but also to their actions, the processes and systems they engage in, and the products, programs, or services they design and develop.

  • · Equity, Diversity & Inclusion: Diversity is ensuring that all individuals can see themselves reflected in the organization regardless of race, gender, age, experiences, skills, languages, cultural background, or sexual orientation. Equity goes a step further and ensures that these same individuals can participate and succeed. Inclusion implies that high-performance leaders take an active role. It’s up to you to use your status to stress the valuable contribution that differences between employees make to the whole.

  • · Ethics: Most organizations have a code of ethics that outlines what actions NOT to do. High-performing organizations recognize that when its members are guided by a strong set of ethics, those ethics can steer people towards what is ethical without needing an extensive list of rules.

  • · Courage: Courage is acting or making decisions in the face of knowing that they may have significant consequences. When high-performing team members observe one another acting courageously, they expand their belief about what they can do.

  • · Tenacity: Whether you chose to call it tenacity, determination, perseverance, or grit, it is the personal energy you bring to an organization or task that will see you through challenges.

  • · Mindfulness: Studies show that individuals who practice mindfulness experience less stress and more personal satisfaction. Organizations that are mindful take time for regular self-reflection and develop the discipline and presence of mind to be intentional about their choices.

  • · Humility: Humility makes for a more collaborative and productive work environment without fear of being subjected to put downs or “one-upmanship. Team members feel they can hear one another’s ideas, proposals or feedback. Leaders readily, and with self compassion, admit to and own their mistakes, demonstrating an ability to learn from them.

  • · Loyalty: Loyalty used to mean length of service and subservient behaviour. Telling your boss or company what they least want to hear is the new loyalty – so long as it’s done with permission, with agreement, and honouring set times and a proper setting. This can mean behind closed doors where it doesn’t undermine a leader in front of their team.

Paying lip service to integrity puts your organization in jeopardy. Integrity was one of the four values carved into a granite block of stone at the head office of Enron. And we all know how that turned out.

Don’t be Enron. An organization’s behaviours, actions, policies and practices all need to support, encourage and reward integrity. They need to be more than a sign on the wall. They need to be lived by example every day.

Putting it into action:

As a leader, it’s up to you to pave the way with regards to Integrity. As Oprah Winfrey said, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not.”

As a leader you can lead by bringing Integrity into every decision. Begin with straightforward and uncomplicated decisions, where there are no obvious issues of Integrity. In that way, when the truly challenging decisions come along, you’ll be well prepared.


Values That Fuel Our Innovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of growth.

In our era of accelerated economies the environment in which we operate is changing faster than many of us may realize. Those that don’t innovate while others around them do, risk being left behind, stagnating, becoming irrelevant and watching their talent leave.

Any organization that wants to nurture innovation within its walls must be intentional about creating a culture that emphasizes these eight elements:

  • · Imagination: Imagination uses powerful metaphors to enable us to make sense of the world. It challenges the status quo, overturns all the rules, and wipes the slate clean. It allows us to see what isn’t visible, permits us to see new possibilities and opportunities, leading to disruptive innovation.

  • · Creativity: Creative teams are those that approach each problem by moving beyond standard practices and looking to find novel solutions to every challenge they meet. By cultivating and utilizing the inherent creative abilities of the entire team, leaders can increase the range of potential solutions for the organization.

  • · Cognitive Diversity: The best teams have diverse players who each excel in their role and strive to make their teammates better. The best leaders recognize the strengths of each individual and build their team with the care of a major league scout. They focus on ensuring that each player knows their role and understands how to support their team members.

  • · Entrepreneurial Thinking: Organizations have "intrapreneurs" within their walls; those who ask why things are running a certain way and dream up more effective approaches to systems and processes. Leaders who empower everyone to think like an entrepreneur encourage innovation to become a common skill within the organization.

  • · Adaptability: Adapting to change is a leadership imperative. An organization that can respond to changes in the business environment faster than the competition is more likely to thrive. By nurturing adaptability, an organization and its people develop the ability to learn from both successes and failures.

  • · Collaboration: "Creative abrasion" occurs when connecting previously unconnected bodies of knowledge and can result in radical innovation. True innovators work with the UNusual suspects; either by bringing together partners from various departments, by looking outside the company, or by going beyond the industry altogether.

  • · Iteration: Businesses that take an iterative approach to their work often have the best track record for innovation. Like a team of scientists, they create a straw model, critique it, test it with users, find flaws, and then return to the drawing board to build on the effectiveness of the previous model. Using iteration, change is intentional and methodical and minimizes risk.

  • · Failing Forward: A willingness to fail is essential to innovation. Innovation is the result of learning lessons from failure and then building stronger, more robust models. It’s vital to reward testing ideas or products that don’t go as expected (i.e. failed) or, at the very least, not to punish those who take calculated risks. This shows team members that they have space to fail and still move forward, which leads to innovative thinking.

No organization can neglect the core business in favor of innovation. Well, it can, but don't expect it to last very long.

Putting it into action:

If you need to foster a culture of innovation, begin an 8-week innovation development program by making one of these values a priority each week. Challenge your team to bring the best of this element to their work during that time. Encourage them to hold one another accountable to that value, so that they are consistently challenging one another to live up the value of the week.

It’s about being intentional …

Without focusing on the values that make up your culture, your culture is left to develop on its own.

It’s likely being influenced by the loudest voices in the business, which let’s face it, might be the most disgruntled.

Or the most antagonist.

Or the most apathetic.

Are these really the attitudes and behaviours you want to see nurtured and spread throughout your organization?

join our growing list of happy clients:


"It was impressive to see Ken facilitate very unique, creative and innovative workshops while keeping connected to our business strategies and end goals..."

- Jackie Barber

  First Calgary Financial

We look forward to responding to your inquiries...


808 22 Ave SE

Calgary AB T2G 1N5


(403) 461-1535

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