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Creating a more innovative culture

I was recently asked how one creates a more innovative culture within a company, with specific reference to Kodak.

The difficulty is that as companies become successful, their performance increases to the extent that they stamp out those people, practices and methodologies that don?t fit the success model. In a word ? they get very fixed and rigid on perceived right way to do things, which makes it extremely difficult to embrace change when it happens. In Kodak?s case, this was coupled with an entitlement culture which meant that people never thought there was any risk of things going wrong in the core business.

How to spread a new culture throughout the company? Well (perhaps unfortunately) a near-death experience has a way of focusing the mind and overcoming resistance to change. So you need to create or capitalize on a compelling case for making the change.I think next, it?s really vital to have a clear view of what a better future could look like. Kodak for years struggled with this, with misbegotten forays into everything from pharmaceuticals (remember that disastrous Sterling Drug acquisition?) to medical devices and the outputs of their Kodak ventures program. The ink jet project is appealing in that everyone can understand and grasp what the company is trying to do ? it?s a nice, easy story to tell, and it?s something the whole employee base can relate to.

Then, you need to have visible, early successes to share the news and convince doubters that the future is in good hands. It is also absolutely vital that the senior team model the behavior they want in the culture. Rewards, recognition, promotion and other goodies for risk-takers is good. Strong positive symbolic messages help too.

Finally, I think it is important to realize that you don?t change a culture through culture change programs. You change a culture through the way that the organization competes to win. Doing work differently eventually leads to a different culture.

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