Challenges to build a culture of excellence and innovation are many for entrepreneurs and business leaders alike in our fast-moving environment. Across relentlessly shifting social, technological, and cultural boundaries nothing seems to stick and barriers often appear insurmountable. Some of the barriers are external, many are internal.
External barriers are often political or macro-economic and can materialise in, for example, currency volatility and regulations. Nevertheless, the biggest threat to excellence and innovation is often self-inflicted: fear of failure, micromanagement and internal politics, lack of a shared vision. Let us look at the most pressing internal challenges, hampering enterprises and organisations become more agile.
Imagine a global knowledge worker, 32 years old, a Spanish national, originally from Morocco -
let’s call him Imad. Imad is currently based between two locations, Barcelona and London
working as a frontend developer on different teams face-to-face and virtually.
In this dynamic world of work, feedback one year in arrear would be meaningless to him.
Imad could simply not do his job. Instead, he seeks an agile culture, in which he can
connect, interact, and by that receive timely feedback.
What are the challenges for the leaders?
In order to be able to foster an agile mindset across the entire organisation, leaders need to take a fresh look at culture.
Commonly, culture is being understood as values and norms, Often, these values and norms are negotiated in the boardroom and disseminated through senior management across the organisation. It is known as corporate culture. The list of failures of organisations who have used this approach is long. Yahoo among many. Why is that?
Culture is not manufactured in an isolated room. Quite reversely, it is the texture that people bring to the organisation, the physical organisation and the virtual organisation alike. Culture breathes. Culture changes all the time. Culture is negotiated in social interactions at the coffee machine, in the canteen or in chats on collaboration tools such as Slack.
So, its meaning is defined by the people of an organisation. They shape what an organisation “is”. They create and recreate organisational culture based on who they are and which bits of their identity they bring to the organisation. And this is exactly where we need to anchor excellence and innovation.
Only people who bring their full selves, their full identity - not just a fabricated copy of a self, desired by the organisation can deliver excellence and shape innovation. Those who can
So in brief, the leader’s responsibility is to give people the opportunity bring their full selves to the workplace. Leaders need to move from corporate culture to organisation culture, both mind and body. Practices such as opening the floor and letting go are difficult issues for many leaders - after all, unlocking excellence and innovation is a grassroot approach.
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Digital transformation strategist | Privacy advisor | Cyber anthropologist | Author