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Practice 7: Change Cultural Assumptions to Signal Importance of Innovation

19 January, 2016 - 10:47

Culture change does not occur until the underlying assumptions that pervade the organization are challenged and replaced with some new assumptions. Therefore, ordering new behaviors isn’t enough. The organization must thoughtfully identify what the old assumptions are and work to instill new assumptions that support the culture desired. Consequently, contemplation and reflection are essential to any culture-change initiative. Perhaps this is why Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad note that “true strategy is the result of deep, innovative thinking.”  1

Some observers call for “disciplined reflection”; 2 while others urge leaders to identify “constraining assumptions.” 3 Whatever the term that is used, organizational members need to think deeply about where their culture limits innovation, and to identify what cultural assumptions are the limiting factor. This requires a collective perspective; very rarely can a single leader come to this realization. Since most organizations have a bias for action, this reflection can be especially difficult. However, organizational learning often requires unlearning old and harmful assumptions and this is especially true for cultivating innovativeness. 4

In conclusion, the eighth and final dimension of organizational capacity for change is an innovative culture that fosters and celebrates creativity and innovation. This dimension is an essential counterbalance to accountability systems. Together, these two dimensions complete our understanding of how to make your organization more change capable.

Figure 10.1 The Eighth Dimension of Organizational Capacity for Change: Innovative Culture