RTM - Creating a Culture of Innovation

Perhaps the biggest challenge that faces an established company seeking to grow in new directions is evolving a culture that permits innovation to flourish. I have previously defined a culture of innovation, quite pragmatically, as a place where “bold new things [can] happen with some regularity” (Euchner 2016 Euchner, J. A. 2016, p. 10). When people see that innovation is actually possible, and welcomed, energy and creativity are unleashed; but in many companies, these wellsprings of innovation have gone underground.

Many things can stifle innovation in an established firm. Perhaps chief among these is the very success of the existing culture. As John Kotter and James Heskett have documented, successful companies have strong cultures—so strong, in fact, that these companies struggle when the requirements of the competitive world demand that they change those norms (Kotter and Heskett 1992). It is a cruel reality that the very culture that has made a company successful will, at some point, become a liability—almost always well before the need for change is recognized.


Volume 60, Issue 6, November-December 2017
From the Editor