Back to Top

Strengthen 5 Dimensions of Your Culture for Innovation, Recovery and Resurgence

Strengthen 5 Dimensions of Your Culture for Innovation, Recovery and Resurgence

We all feel it and know it: life and work as we’ve known it is over. We can never fully go back to “how things were.” The rules of the game have changed, and will continue to evolve. 

We’re in a liminal space – an in-between space – where we’ve left the relative certainty of our habitual world but not yet “arrived” at what I call the “Next New Normal.” It’s a space where we can go back and forth from constrictive fear and frustration to collaborative compassion and enthusiasm.

I’m reminded of a story that Frank Carrubba, former VP of HP Labs, once told me. He wanted his executive team to experience what it means to “manage” the risks it took to maintain industry leadership. So he had them join in a set of team building exercises – one of which involved climbing a 30’ pole with a safety harness on, and then standing on a 12” disk at the very top (with nothing to hold on to!). 

Just out of reach was a trapeze bar suspended 30’ off the ground. Each executive had to jump off the disk to catch the bar, and then be lowered to the ground. (If they missed the bar, they’d be safely lowered by their safety harness.) 

Frank wanted them to experience that moment when they had left the disk – and couldn’t go back – but hadn’t yet caught the bar. That was the liminal space of taking a conscious risk: being committed to going forward, with no going back.

Every leader is facing such a moment in this crisis. The way forward is to take the leap. And not just in your business strategy, but in the entire way you think about your organizational culture – and how your culture impacts the degree to which you emerge from this disruptive crisis stronger than you were a year ago. Later in this blog I’ll present 5 dimensions of such a culture. But first, there’s a crucial question to ask and explore!

How well are you, and your entire organization, preparing to emerge from this disruptive crisis in the next 6 to 24 months? That is the liminal question of innovation, recovery, and resurgence!

One piece of one answer to that question was framed by the former Governor of the Bank of England in a recent article for The Economist entitled, Mark Carney on how the economy must yield to human values:

"In this crisis, we know we need to act as an interdependent community not independent individuals, so the values of economic dynamism and efficiency have been joined by those of solidarity, fairness, responsibility, and compassion."

The crisis calls us to embrace such human values – as individuals and as an organizational culture – as we hold 2 extremes with dexterity, balance, and empathy: 

  1. On the one hand, there is serious suffering as people struggle with the risk of their own health and the fact of tens of thousands of deaths – many of whom breathed their last without the comfort of family and friends at that moment.
  2. On the other hand, the momentum of decades-long habits and “addictions” to lifestyles, work styles, and economic priorities has been halted – unfrozen and now malleable to evolve into newer, healthier, more accommodating choices

Focusing only on the first hand leads to constrictive fear talk about adversity. Focusing only on the second hand leads to mere happy talk about advancement. Holding both in our hands together leads to sober yet uplifting dialogue of awakening and action:

  • A dialogue about innovative recovery: finding ways to live through, and work through, the immediate conditions of this global life/health/economic crisis
  • A dialogue about innovative resurgence: finding ways to generate, shape, and operate the “Next New Normal” of the future

In “normal” times, we focus on innovating a future of robust growth. In today’s tough times, we need to have a dual focus: recovery and resurgence. A critical key is to evolve – even transform – your organizational culture to embody and enable Human Centered Innovation:

  • A culture that synergizes the core human strengths and values for being innovative
  • A culture that galvanizes effective responses to present-day challenges
  • A culture for continuously shaping and operating in the still-unknown Next New Normal
  • A culture of purposeful inclusion that engages every leader and employee to make a difference 

All these add up to a Culture of Innovation, Recovery, and Resurgence in your organization. From our decades of research and experience with corporate cultures, we’ve observed the following 5 dimensions of such a culture – which you can bolster through leadership practices, policies, and communications that directly impact how people innovate in their daily work. 

We present them here to give you an initial sense of where you are, and what you could strive to strengthen:

1. People are united, with diversity:

  • Recognize that every person has the potential to be creative and innovative
  • Promote a unifying language and understanding for being innovative in everyday work

2. People are growth-oriented, with balance:

  • Aim to benefit all stakeholders while valuing both achievement and new knowledge as meaningful outcomes
  • Invigorate the purpose, mission, vision, values, norms, and practices that enable innovation

3. People are uplifting, with good character:

  • Build the self-awareness, self-esteem, values, skill, and confidence for being innovative
  • Unify the capabilities for innovative collaboration and versatility across boundaries

4. People are expansive, with resolve:

  • Stretch boundaries of thought while consciously co-creating the future
  • Use human values and innovative thinking to stimulate creative ideas and produce meaningful solutions

5. People are agile, with integrity:

  • Sustain positive team climates while coordinating the resources to achieve innovative outcomes
  • Practice the art and discipline of innovation with the agility and wisdom needed to serve all stakeholders

In these turbulent times, a Culture of Innovation, Recovery, and Resurgence is not a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” Indeed, getting a handle on where your culture is now and where it needs to be is foundational to your present and future success!

To emerge from this crisis stronger than before, begin innovating your culture now – if you haven’t already. Establish the cultural foundation for innovation recovery, and innovative resurgence. Waiting to start will keep you suspended between a past that no longer exists and a future that is out of your reach.

I’m sure you can add your own experience about the need to strengthen your culture for innovation. I’d appreciate learning from your insights. Connect with me on Linkedin and share your thoughts!

William Miller's picture
About the author

William C. Miller, co-founder of Values Centered Innovation, is passionate about integrating emotional intelligence, human values, and mental discipline with our innate capabilities to be innovative.