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Practice 6: Change Cultural Artifacts and Values to Signal Importance of Innovation

6 October, 2015 - 12:19

Recall from the previous chapter that one key way to change a culture is to intentionally shift the cultural artifacts in the direction of the desired change. When creativity and innovation is desired, it is important to be more flexible in the work environment. So flexibility in working arrangements, dress codes, and organizational titles becomes important.

New myths and rituals are required that focus on creativity and innovation. For example, some organizations celebrate failed experiments based on imaginative new ideas. Other organizations promote individuals who took a risk on a promising new idea that did not work out. And changing the formal values statement to incorporate an explicit statement about creativity and innovation highlights its new importance. Still others change the metaphors used in the organization. For example, creating a “blank canvas” culture evokes an image of artists operating without artificial constraints.

Fundamentally, cultures are not changed by new thoughts or words, they are changed by new behaviors that reinforce the cultural attributes that are desired. For example, GM’s automobile plant in Fremont, California, transformed its culture by adopting the lean manufacturing behaviors advocated by its new venture partner, Toyota Motors. For example, nothing was as transformative at this particular plant as the “simple” act of empowering frontline employees to stop the productive line at any time due to quality concerns. This new policy had dramatic impacts on the revitalization of this unionized plant.  1