How to Build a Culture of Innovation

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Original Date: December 14, 2017
This webinar, hosted by Raphael Louis Vitón, global transformation lead at Axialent, and Tim Kuppler, director of culture and organization development at Human Synergistics, a 40-plus-year pioneer in the field of workplace culture and leadership, and the co-founder of, features lessons learned from Axialent’s decade-long partnership with Human Synergistics, building more collaborative, courageous, creative and agile organizations. While many executives hide behind the “innovation/change is hard” excuse, in this webinar Raff and Tim will discuss firsthand stories that demonstrate how fostering a culture of innovation is easier when you:

  • Clarify your culture gap (current vs. ideal) and the business case for your “FROM>TO” shift.
  • Co-create a shared learning path forward (i.e., a prototype).
  • Focus your change efforts where you’ll get immediate, deep leverage and real benefits (in a way that people really like vs. resist):
    • Focus on your existing business priorities (e.g., growth, customer experience, new products/services) to improve results with clarity and speed.
    • Focus on the beliefs, biases and behaviors to scale constructive leadership lifestyle habits.
    • Focus on engaging leadership and the broader organization in new ways to break free from self-limiting, outdated corporate traditions of old.
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Barbie: Hello everyone and welcome to the webinar, “How to Build a Culture of Innovation.” This is one in a series of webinars where we connect to bring to life the challenges we see in the market and what to do about them. During this session, Raphael Vitón Axialent’s Global Transformation Lead and Tim Kuppler Director of Culture and Organizational Development at Human Synergistics, will share lessons learned from Axialent’s decade-long partnership with Human Synergistics building more collaborative, courageous, creative, and agile organizations.
We will host a Q&A at the end of the session. So if you have any questions during the presentation, you can use the question application and we will answer them later in the call. With that, I hand it off to you, Raff.

Raphael Vitón: Thank you Barbie. Welcome Tim.

Tim Kuppler: Yeah, glad to be here.

Raphael Vitón: Yeah, let’s dive right in. I know you and I both wrote our books that are shown here probably four or five years ago. Since then, been working together on a number of different projects domestically and internationally. So much new stuff, so much content emerging. Best practices we’ve been working on, writing about. I’m sure if we wrote those books today, they’d be quite different and obviously today there’s so much being written about this topic of culture change and innovation and digitalization, and disruption. Like lots of content and information available. Lots of really interesting headlines. For today’s time together, let’s focus on bringing it down to a little bit more practical level away from the headlines. Where even a lot of articles, as inspiring as they may be, you can’t really get that much stuff into it to be practical.

So this webinar is going to be much more about a how-to build a culture of innovation and from a very practical level. The kind of projects that you and I had been working on together are very much rooted in this typical case study. I’m just going fly through it, as an overview right here, where there’s a multinational organization that is hell-bent on shifting from … They’ve been diagnosed with having these criteria that are actually quite working against innovation, working against the future, working against being a strong player in the industry, and the way it’s evolving. Trying to shift from being very bureaucratic to being more innovative. This from-to shift that’s here is quite typical. I’m sure most of the folks on the line would recognize a lot of these characteristics. Typically, the work we’re involved in leads to a culture of innovation. Part of the key strategy to help lead the global turn-around, in this example here similar to others, is built around trying to enable the organization in terms of innovation. To be more innovative.

Leverage the knowledge that exists inside of the system and the communities inside of this system. Increase the very collaborative efforts across the silos, across the regions and business units. Accelerate the speed to market knowing that we’re in a VUCA world today. We really need to be able to deliver on these kind of attributes and maximize the partnerships to do all of the good stuff. Often, we hear companies wanting to shift from and to and say, “We need to reduce the stress. People are too stressed out. There’s too much drama going on.” I don’t know about you, but the idea of reducing stress sounds a little optimistic from a system’s standpoint. Actually, we see that the goal really isn’t about reducing or relieving stress, but instead it’s about how do we increase performance under increased stress. Cause the stress and the speed of change isn’t going away, it’s only accelerating.

These examples and the approach we’re going to give produce increased engagement levels, increased motivation, which is different from reducing stress. Right? Increased abilities to collaborate and increased creativity. Always rooted in the end business we’re trying to help shift to. In this example, like many others, where measuring and capturing what is the net positive business effect. How do we help the organization quantify? You’ve got the evidence that you need to continue to keep iterating on building that culture of innovation.
Now, the way those case studies typically start though, in many companies there’s this declaration where we’re committed to updating the company for the future. I’ve even seen posters in some companies that have a slogan on it about soaring into the future with new engines and the excitement that builds around upgrading the culture, being more innovative is very strong and it’s very authentic and it’s very real. There’s, also very real, a strong commitment towards this new future. That excitement and commitment often manifests itself in two different ways. Just keep going with the metaphor here of the airplane and soaring into the future. Often, this excitement and commitment is also met with a lot of skepticism and skepticism for good reason. Skepticism for good reason because it’s often either too light, like too fluffy, too superficial inspirational and not really enough substance.

Once the CEO and the leadership team have declared that they’re all in, they want to do this quickly. They’re committed to being ‘the next Apple.’ I’m sure you’ve heard that too of the industry. Then, the declaration is made, and the idea of now we’ve got to soup this airplane up with some new engine, some new horsepower. If you don’t get the new horsepower in there, it’s definitely delivering on that skepticism of being too fluffy. On the other side of that, you really load up the horsepower in terms of resources. Big organizations build centers of excellence around innovation. Innovation committees and councils are appointed. The expectations are raised quite high. It sounds good, it looks good, but unfortunately the reality of it doesn’t typically match what we intended. Rather than being this souped-up airplane ready to take off and go into the future. It winds up being this bloated, weighted-down. Anything but agile and adaptive type of a thing. That’s the best way to call it. This thing that never has enough chance to get enough speed and momentum to get off of the ground and go to where we want to go.

So this approach that we’re going to talk about today and the one that we like to employ together is about how do we reduce the friction. Take weight off the plane while giving it some new engines and some new capabilities and competencies so that it has a better chance of taking off, sticking, and producing the results that you want. So that’s the metaphor, it’s kind of behind the whole how-to approach here. It’s a much less risky approach than the heavy, bloated over-invested in. It’s much more effective. We talk about culture change, not for the sake of change for change’s sake. Tim, you and I see across all of our clients different types of reasons for wanting to jump into culture change.

Tim Kuppler: Yeah, no doubt about it. We want the reasons to be about a specific business problem or outcome that we’re trying to improve. So often it becomes about a culture plan or, in the same rights, an innovation plan. We’re going to go right to that, but we haven’t really articulated what’s the business impact, what’s the business problem. Then let’s understand how cultures helping us or holding us back in achieving those goals. Next slide there.

So what’s that outcome or business goal. These are just some examples of projects we worked on. It’s often, the number one priority in the organization, in some form, be quality customer experience. But, where the organization’s at from an innovation perspective could be very different. Innovation at one organization when it comes to customer experience might just be listening to the customer and translating just a few of those ideas to action. While another organization might have a whole customer experience journey that they’re well down the path of producing some very meaningful innovation. So it’s about meeting the organization with where they’re at and understanding their current culture where they’re at in their journey and then applying this type of approach that we’re going to talk about next.

Raphael Vitón: We’re going to keep coming back to, okay what is the business goal? What is the desired outcome? What are we rooting this entire effort in? Just remember this slide and each one of you on the line will have your own portfolio of business imperatives and business initiatives that you’re already working on. The question is going to be, how do we use that business initiative as the best reason to practice this new, innovative culture and these new innovative mindsets and skills. As Tim said, every company is different, every company has a different muscle that it needs to at its certain level of competency for innovation. To be successful in market and, because every company is different, lets use a model right out of the gate here and I’m quickly just going to touch on it.

A model that helps root us in, what the gap is that we’re trying to fill from a big picture perspective here. We are trying to fill a gap and it sounds like this in most companies. You hear and acknowledgement that we’re not moving fast enough, we’re not being bold enough to meet the customer’s changing needs. We’re at risk of not being relevant anymore. We haven’t shown commitment to long-term innovation. Quite frankly, we’re optimized for efficiency, not innovation. What are we going to do about that? We’re not very good at risk-taking. We don’t reward it, we don’t really like it. We like safe, reliable things. We don’t like risk-taking. An acknowledgment that we don’t have the culture that we need to win.

In the future, part of this model, I’m going to oversimplify the model here. This is a model that comes from innovation guru Doug Stone from Drive Strategies. He’s a big systems thinker and he’s leveraged the work from Roger Martin who’s the Dean of the Rotman School of Business University of Toronto. One of the early pioneers of designs thinking and systems thinking, author of many books. Roger Martin’s overview, again oversimplifying it is, that the inside of an organization there are two different systems at work. It’s an operational mindset that builds this system. There’s a reliability system. It’s the current success formula that has worked really well. It’s predictable. We monitor it and measure it and we know what to expect.

There’s this future eventuality system that is uncertain. We don’t know exactly and it’s very adaptive and it’s complex. These wind up being muscles, not just systems. In most companies, the reliability muscle is far stronger, far bigger, and is the dominant power system overall. Both of these are at play inside of any organization all the time. It’s not about one needing to be bigger or stronger or not. It’s about how do these two work together? Ignore all that information. But the gap is the culture of innovation and the innovation thing to focus on is how do we bridge the gap here so that we can be much more effective with these two systems. So the gap to fill, the focus, is going to be on: how do people work together and do co-creation better? How do we prototype and test things for better decision making? How do our innovation and assets and work processes and portfolio management lead us to a structure that leadership can actually use the vision and strategy for the future to harness the culture overall and get us to the place we need to go and deliver the right business outcome.

So this model is really just about filling that gap with different types of competencies. We talk about it often that the layers of competency and the things that we need to have … the structures and the governance models and measurements are critically important. But we’re going to talk today about the people and the culture part, which are the essential elements that drive the gears above. They wind up being the lens for what is the company ready for with relation to designing the right gears at the top.

Let’s talk real quick here as well about what works and what doesn’t work. What doesn’t work is treating the effort like it’s an HR or communications project. This is where it tends to be more on the fluffy side, not rooted in the business impact and the delivery aspect of it. That’s where you often hear the phrase ‘innovation theater’ or ‘culture change theater’ where there’s not enough teeth to not enough business connection to it or it’s episodic, event-driven. Almost like you go to a workshop and it’s supposed to be fixed. You’ve got the tools you need so now go back into the system and be innovative.

We all know that doesn’t work and, when it’s not integrated directly with the business, you typically don’t get the traction. What does work is treat it like a business prototype. That way it’s going to be inherently more connected and integrated with the business. I want to make sure that it is rooted in clearly-defined vision in terms of the from-to shift. The clearly articulated gaps and we’re going to talk about how to get very clear on what those are, in a moment. The other thing is what works is that, when it’s lifestyle focus. Its long-term focus, rewiring, changing habits, unlearning some old traditions and things that are great and are operating in the background perhaps. Developing new, more effective traditions. What works is focusing on mindsets and behaviors.

Lastly, the idea of how do we … there’s no way to really predict what is going to work inside of an organization that’s full of people and we’re talking about people as the culture. So the idea of how do we make it iterative? How do we make this a shared-learning stretch experience? Obviously, it has to deliver results so that people will testify, from a personal and very relevant standpoint, that it works. It has to work. People have to like it. They have to enjoy working this way more than working the way they used to. That’s the only way it’s going to operate long enough to stick is if people like it and it delivers results.

The approach is designed with that in mind. As a way to help simplify, for the folks online, there’s two major fronts that companies typically need help with. One is the inner game. The ability to bring this individual team and organizational mindset shift to life. To shift from where you’re at to where you want to go. This ideal future, these ideal, more beneficial mindsets and behaviors. This internal game, this transformation, is what’s necessary to actually enable sustained behavior change over time. So the inner game is a very important focus we’re going to talk about and the outer game. This is the execution part. It’s the real-life experience of understanding how we are going to be differently. How we’re going to engage differently and how we’re going to lead the company, while we’re doing the work, while we’re delivering results. That’s going to be the thing that translates those mindset and behavior shifts into something very actionable and long-term results.

The trick here isn’t to think about these things or isn’t to design the approach going forward like they’re two separate things, but instead, how can we think about intertwining these things? How can we think about prototyping? Treating it like a prototype … we’re actually learning how to do both of these things at the same time. Just to give some clarity to the word prototype, and some people prefer the word pilot. They don’t want to use the word prototype because it feels like you’re prototyping on your business. Here’s what we’re doing. Pilot, prototype, whatever you want to use. It’s an experiment, it’s a low-risk, shared learning experience. It is this early model. It’s a way of learning about what is possible for you right now. It’s the only model of a thing that’s going to be replicated or learned from. It’s a low-risk way to accelerate results and then scale from those results. Let the results themselves be the thing that justify further investment and then, for further adoption and scaling the results, the successes. We’re going to use this concept of a prototype all the way throughout the rest of the dialogue.

It’s intended to, like we talked about with the metaphor of the airplane. The bloated, too heavy airplane is how do we reduce friction, engage each other differently and accelerate the change. The three buckets we’re going to talk through today are alignment. First and foremost, how do we agree on what the business priorities are. What the gaps to close are. How do we stimulate growth by agreeing to stay in the tension together. We’re not going to relieve tension or stress. We’re going to find how to deal with that in a much more constructive, generative, healthy way. Tension is good. Creative tension is good. How do we get alignment so that we can agree to stay in it together long enough to build the new muscles. To build the new mindsets and get to a place where the transformation aspect of it is where we’re going to focus on that.

How do we master these different levels, these levers. The mindsets and behaviors so that we can increase the quality of ideas, the quantity of ideas, the depth of trust and relationship in service of better business outcomes. This is the second piece. The third piece is execution operationalizing, collaborating. Doing the work together in a way that delivers value and builds that critical mass of capital. That’s the evidence we’re looking for. It’s the successes that we’re looking for. It will be proof point that we are winning and that we win even more if we scale this thing and get further adoption. That helps pull us forward as opposed to try to push us forward. The prototype piece is: how do we do these things at the same time together? The first piece we’re going to jump into then is the alignment part about accurately diagnosing the culture gap and aligning around the actionable from-to. It’s going to be anchored in a case for change and, Tim, I’m going to turn it over to you to talk us through the diagnosis part.

Tim Kuppler: Thanks Raff and I love what you talk about there with the helix and the mindset shift that’s needed. I truly do believe that a more, inclusive approach would be better. You could be more curious, I need to involve more, so I can’t translate that to the how-to side of actually engaging differently and figuring out different approaches. Then that mindset shift won’t translate to the results we need. When we start to look at and understand the from-to shift needed it’s important to understand that most of what we see out there, that people talk about as being culture, is actually by definition about the work climate.

I’ll move to this quickly, some of you on the line have seen this slide and a few others before, but climate is all about the surface. Is the mission clear? What are we doing as far as teamwork, involvement, engagement, but there’s an issue in the work climate. It could be due to many different underlying cultural reasons. Some of those look like on the left, where we won’t want people to feel expected to take on challenging tasks, proactively share ideas, plan ahead. But some of those expectations are unwritten rules are like those on the right. Where people feel they can never make a mistake or we’re not supposed to rock the boat. We point out flaws or we’re expected to push decisions upward and it goes without saying that these can really submarine innovation efforts. Next slide.

So we want to understand this culture from two perspectives. First of all, what’s the idea? What are we targeting? What currently exists? There’s typically a gap and if we don’t get a language around this and understand what’s driving it. How the organization has been built. What are those systems structures? How leaders are leading, that’s reinforcing that current state. If we don’t understand that well, then it’s difficult to manage that from-to journey to get more towards the ideal that we feel is necessary to deliver on our strategy. Next slide.

We want to get a clear language around this and the current expectations might look somewhat like the things on the left. Where people feel expected to switch priorities to please others or take few chances or push decisions upward. We want the expectations to be more about what’s on the right. Where we actually feel expected in this organization to help others grow and develop. Show concern for people, plan ahead, those types of things. Hopefully you can see, by just looking at these examples, understanding this at a deeper level and what those expectations are. Help us give a real, solid grounding to that from-to shift. It’s not just what a top leader might say. That shift needs to be or another team, but we’ve got some data behind it all to match with that qualitative work that might be done through interviews, focus groups, or other means. Next slide.

Raphael Vitón: What Tim meant, the idea of shifting from that Post-It note slide that was using very anecdotal … it feels like this is our gap. The idea that leadership has a different feeling and perspective of the gap than mid-level folks. Which is going to be very different than front-line folks. The idea of, let’s make sure our perspective, make sure the data we’re using to come up with the gap and the language around the gap. Before we start making plans for what problem to solve and what muscles need to be built first. The idea of having a strong, accurate objective diagnostic that gets to the root of the matter is really important. Together, we’re always working through what’s the best way to blend both the qualitative diagnostic work and the quantitative. We can use the models of the quant research in a way that we can apply lots of curiosity and invite lots of other people with curiosity to really get to the bottom of: what do we think this means? What does it really mean?

Working with Human Synergistics, we have access to a very integrated diagnostic system. Which is why the partnership has been so successful for so long. It’s very flexible and adaptive to the needs of every single one of our clients. The bottom line is we’re using the diagnostics to raise the awareness in a way that we can consistently all understand. When we hold up that mirror, we see what’s really going on. We’ve got a baseline. The gap can be clear. The articulation of the vision and the strategy is based on something that we all are familiar with and believe in. It really invites people and involves them in a way that, without it, it’s just opinions. This gives a much more informed way of starting where they are versus starting where we think they are.

I love how this takes us to a look at the integrated system, but we don’t have time to go through the whole suite. I know this is only some of the tools that you guys use and that we use across many different clients. It’s all rooted in the circumplex and, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to shift to the next slide, Tim, and let you take it from here about talking though the circumplex as a model.

Tim Kuppler: Sure. Just to emphasize one thing, on the slide you showed about integrative qualitative and quantitative. We’re up, always starting with the qualitative. Leadership might think there’s issues with accountability or issues with execution or whatever it might be. As we go deeper in the organization and understand what’s really driving that current state, we might find that there’s communication issues. Goals and roles aren’t clear and lots of things that make accountability, innovation, and other things difficult. But let’s look at the circumplex so we can talk about the model helps accelerate this understanding.
We looked at three general clusters of norms or expectations. We do that ideal versus current. When we do the ideal, basically, leadership says, “Well, we want these very constructive or blue expectations.” Which are balanced between the task side and making new goals and showing genuine care and concern for people. But when we do the current culture assessment, we might see some of that blue, but we might see a lot more of the red and green. The red being more aggressive/defensive and the green being more passive/defensive and conventional approval-related behaviors and expectations. So we create a gap, basically, and get a visual image of that gap, and a language behind it. Next slide.

Now, I’m going real fast here, jumping to the end results of this. The results shown how culture works model where on the left side you’ve got this picture of what are we ideally targeting in the terms of values and beliefs around what should be expected in the organization to drive effectiveness. We compare that to the current culture, the picture on the right, which is the norms and expectations. Those unwritten rules driving behavior in the workplace each day. We’ve got two other pieces to this. These are actually areas of the work climate. Climate is incredibly important because these are some of the reasons why there might be a gap between what we’re ideally targeting and what currently exists. We dive into that and understand various structures, systems, how leaders are leading, that help us understand what’s reinforcing that current state. If we don’t understand that, we can go at the front two all we want, but we’ve got to make some adjustments to how we’re leading and how we’re coordinating improvement efforts if those improvements are going to be successful. Any comments on this model Raff? I knew you love using it.

Raphael Vitón: Yeah, just because it is. It clarifies where we’re at today and captures a model of the vision has of where we want to be. What’s in the middle that we need dive deeper into? As opposed to lots of times we hear folks say, “Hey, we don’t need a diagnostic to tell us we’re not innovative. We know we’re not innovative. Let’s just get started. Let’s build a culture plan.” We don’t have enough information to build it effectively. This starts to dimensionalize that’s the kind of information, causal factors, and levers that are really important to figure it out. By the way, if you look at it from the different dimensions of success, from an individual level, team and group level, and the overall organizational level. It’s so much more informative. I honestly don’t know how business units invest the way they do into culture change without having this information and this data available. I don’t know how you align and feel good about the strategy of culture and development and investing any of that if you don’t have this information.

Cost prohibitive by any stretch of the means in terms of the money you’re going to be investing in actually building those other muscles, shifting and learning and failing together. That’s my soapbox.

Tim Kuppler: Appreciate that. In that same framework, the how culture works model framework, this is just an example. The reporting under that, just one page of a summary report where the organization gets that picture of what they are ideally targeting. It’s very blue and they get that picture of the current state. But they also understand, we call them these levers for change or causal factors. These areas of the work climate that are reinforcing the current state. Perform the mindset shift all you want and people can believe I want to operate more like our ideal. But if we don’t begin to evolve how we built this organization that’s reinforcing the current. That mindset shift really won’t help us translate things to results. So there’s a lot of detail behind this and we just wanted to show from a 50,000 feet view. Next slide.

Now when it comes to using that information in combination with what we’ve learned from the qualitative. If there are these gaps, what are the beliefs that are driving them. What are the behaviors that are a challenge. We try to get a common language description around the from state. In this case, it was an organization looking to dramatically improve quality, but they felt they kind of had a “get er done” culture with a lot of silos and collaboration issues. The specific behaviors where they saw people taking action without team involvement and decisions. There wasn’t really open debate without fearing consequences. People weren’t comfortable sharing ideas and problems. You’re not going to change that overnight. But they did have a vision of we want a collaborative, agile, cross-functional culture focused on our clients and business results. They translated those from behaviors to the to behaviors that they’re really targeting. They wanted to be comfortable involving, giving feedback, resolving disconnects, listening and thinking through things with open debate. That creative tension that you talked about before and practically sharing ideas and problems with respect. We’re going at things now, supporting this from two lenses. Instead of being all about the two states, without really understanding what’s the from and how is it playing out in our organization.

Raphael Vitón: I would say too, just in this from-to example, you notice the word innovation isn’t used here. Collaborative, agile, cross-functional, it doesn’t matter what words you use. Some people get really hung up on the word innovation. Like it’s overused, we can’t use that word, the CEO doesn’t want us to use that word anymore. Okay, it doesn’t matter what word you use. The work is still the same to be done. You still have to be more customer-centric, you still have to be more adaptive, and you have to do it with people. I know words matter, but at the same time, the data here and the from-to. Whether it perfectly fits into a stereotypical culture of innovation from-to or not. It’s legit and it gives you a great foundation to start the planning process and have people be emotionally bought into that’s what we’re doing. I understand it. It does matter. I see how it’s going to connect to the business, let’s go.

Tim Kuppler: You got it. There’s two real concepts when it comes to the change side of things and being able to take that from-to from a concept that makes complete sense to action that actually improves results. There’s two critical principles. Culture’s built through shared-learning and mutual experience. It’s a group thing. We’ve got to take the group through it. We’ve got to learn, we’ve got to translate it to results. As you said, people have to like it more than other approaches. Secondly, which is often forgotten, is that the culture’s really transmitted through these climate factors and behavioral norms. All these systems, structures, processes and these expectations that might be very different than the values we see on the wall. If we don’t design that improvement effort to drive learning, but also to go at our systems and processes in a little different way in a targeted area. To be intentional about the from-to we’re trying to facilitate, then that shared-learning might be just that from is holding us back again and we haven’t really figured it out. It’s these two in tandem, that really are at the forefront of that learning experience and initial innovation prototype effort.

Raphael Vitón: Right on. When we don’t have the understanding and the knowledge of, “Oh, this is how we have to think about.” If we don’t have this perspective or how to think about changing culture, then we wind up doing the things that are fluffy or we overcompensate and make it too heavy. That’s why there is so much skepticism. That’s why most of the culture of innovation programs don’t work because there’s a lot of work to be done up front. There’s a lot of understanding and perspective. To leverage that kind of excitement and commitment towards something and approach that’s going to be effective. You called it an improvement. What did you call it? What did you call the project? Typically, you use the term prototype, you say business improvement plan?

Tim Kuppler: Yeah, it’s a performance improvement or a mission priority. That we’re really focused on a plan in the targeted area that drive learning quickly, deliver results, but we’re adjusting that current plan that already exists for the current approach based on what we’ve learned through the assessment process.

Raphael Vitón: That’s what we’re going to talk about next. We’re going to jump into the transformation portion. Again, these are all very much intertwined. Just to break it apart so we can talk about each section independently. We’re going to talk about the transformation piece. We’re going to use the metaphor of the iceberg, everybody is familiar with the metaphor of the iceberg. What’s above the line, above the water line, is stuff that we can see. That’s the results that we have. Tim, you just said it, how do we deliver it quick, high-impact, real business results. At the same time, generate advocacy that’s powerful because it’s personal and it’s real. Having come from the learn-by-doing approach. We’re going to get back.

The idea of the doing part, the executing part, which is underneath the water but still somewhat visible. How do we support the teams that are going through these business improvement plans or the prototypes. Where they’re actually real-time, real-world addressing a specific business priority in a way. We’re doing it differently. Hopefully, we’re practicing some more effective interaction and co-creation skills across silos, across teams.
We’re going to talk now about, what’s at the bottom of the iceberg? What’s the part that is most invisible? Hardest to see, hardest to understand, but has the greatest leverage towards changing the doing and delivering on the results that we wanted. That’s the mindsets and skillsets. How do these things show up? In most cases, the mindsets are actually anchoring the organizational contradictions.

We’re going to give a few examples of these contradictions and these are hidden beliefs and assumptions. These traditions that exist that are invisible are always in practice. Typically, these traditions are stronger than our good intentions to change. They wind up acting like a brake and stop the behavior that we’re trying to do. Even if intellectually, we understand that, “Hey, I should be more collaborative now. These hidden beliefs keep me from being able to do it. It’s not because I’m not smart. It’s not because I don’t care. It’s not because I’m not capable. It’s because I have these underlying mindsets immune to change, if you will, that are getting in the way.”

They’re not obvious. They’re very personal and often fear-based or scarcity mindset based. That means that they’re very strong and will definitely get in the way and they might come show up like this. The wish to do something different like dare to think innovatively is interceded by a mindset these underlying assumptions of and belief that, if I try something new and fail, I could be blamed and punished and nobody wants to be blamed and punished. Because it’s going to be bad for my job and bad for my future with the company. I’m going to end up homeless on the streets. Naturally, I’m committed to not failing. I’m committed to not being exposed and blamed. So that’s going to definitely hamper the ability to try new things and experiment. Even in a culture where the espoused value is it’s okay to fail. Like large, giant bureaucratic organizations where they even want to say it’s okay. The underlying mindset is no way, that’s not true. My belief is something very contradictory.

Another one is, challenge with humility. Let’s stop all of the political niceties. Speak up. Say what’s on your mind about this idea or that idea or what we should be doing differently. But in reality, the mindset is if I speak up and challenge, I might be seen as disruptive. I might be viewed as a troublemaker. The last guy got in big trouble and this is going to put me at risk. I’m committed to staying safe.

Lastly, act collaboratively. The underlying belief and assumptions where the contradiction resides is. If I give up resources for the sake of greater good and collaborative and share, I may be putting my own objectives at risk. My own performance will look bad. My team is going to be unhappy with me and they’re not going to want to follow me anymore. I’m going to lose their trust. My priorities have to matter more so I can’t be collaborative. So you can see how these contradictions are so strong that they wind up getting in the way. Organizational contradictions, yes. They anchor the behavioral norms.

I like the picture over there on the right. As an example, this current culture, this company that is competitive silo-driven, focused on results. Why is it being focused on results at the expense of trust, creativity, engagement of empowerment? These are the types of hidden beliefs and assumptions that are underneath it. We need to be able to see and understand that this is going on. This belief that, if you’re a good employee, you’ll survive no matter what. Even if it’s a hostile and aggressive environment. You’ll just stay and put up with it and it’s okay. If you’re tough, it won’t bother you. The belief that all that matters is a short-term result. It doesn’t matter if we say what matters most is the customer. Behind the scenes, inside of our minds, the belief is that short-term results matter. There’s this us and them mentality that happens too, where those people are not smart enough to help us with this. We just have to do it ourselves.

The biggest, most common one is we don’t have time to involve other groups; therefore, we can’t possibly collaborate and get over this silo-driven thing that exists. It shows up as behaviors like not involving others, not open to debate without fearing what’s going to happen if I do challenge? Not feeling comfortable sharing ideas and problems. The metaphor is typically acted out, but here it is on a slide, that if we just focus on changing behavior. Often, companies will have a list of the new behaviors that we want people to follow. It’s an intuitive thing to do. Everybody is going to say, intellectually, okay I want to do the ideal culture stuff. I want to do the new, innovative stuff as well.

I’m going to try and do it, but those underlying mindsets wind up being a parachute holding us back. No matter how hard we try, the default mindsets that exist in myself, the team, and the culture hold us back. So only focusing on the mindsets can we unlock and shift towards even the possibility of sustainable behavior change. To get to a capability that we can build and master requires that we unlock it from the mindset first. We want to shift from a no-er and a victim mindset to more of a learner/player/creator mindset. Once we make the shift and address the mindset piece of it, it will start to pull us forward. Even though there’s high stress and tension, the creative energy now pulls us towards these new mindsets and new behaviors as well.

Often, as one way to bring it to life, the wish is, “Hey, I want my team to be more creative. Can you guys just come in and do a workshop that makes them more creative?” Yes, we could, there’s a process for that. But typically, the creative muscle requires … it comes from a curiosity muscle. To be more creative, you have to first be more curious. That has some other elements built into it. Before you can actually be curious, you have to work on humility. The humility muscle is what drives the curiosity muscle, which leads to the creativity muscle. “Hey, do you want to do a workshop on creativity?” Well, first we should do something that’s focused on humility. Let’s focus on that for a while. That will unlock all the rest of it.

To build these mindsets, it is a more deliberate, intense program of working on building the practice to get the mastery. It’s not a secret, there’s not a black box, it has to be practiced. It accelerated and deepened by doing it together. Different types of programs that help learn and practice together. A peer-based learning environment is how you really speed up the process. Lastly, how do these things intertwine together in the execution format. What does the plan look like? Let’s look at that here and I’m going to breeze right through this because we talked about it already. How do we get to mindsets/behaviors that drive results? The idea of the work be done is quite simple. We’re going to talk about this in the context of the scientific method.

The scientific method is very much the lean start-up way. It’s very much the design-thinking way. It’s very much the agile, all this stuff is the same. It’s just worded differently. It’s got different cycle times, but don’t let a lack of mastery in these different innovation processes be the thing that holds you back from creating a more entrepreneurial culture. A more innovative culture. Taking a high-level principle is I’ve learned by doing and applying it to the high-priority business needs is how we model this.

Most folks, most companies can only speculate how the organization is going to respond to and resist change. There’s no way, I have not seen an enterprise-level cascading plan be successful on its own, right out of the gate. You have to have built in and answered the questions like, how do we define the way teams are going to connect up and down to be most effective? How do we break down the silos and build the culture. Why are the norms, that we talked about, that are getting in the way and working against us and why are those there? What are the causal factors? Why are those there? How do we define and measure the new elements? What things are working and what things aren’t? So we can build on the stuff that are and don’t waste time on the stuff that aren’t.

We do it in a way and how to build a version of this new culture, in a microculture. We can see the versions of progress, see how it demonstrates value, and then translate that into the learning into real value for the organization so it can be adopted. We continue with the prototype language is you take advantage of the existing business imperative, right? Real-world challenges and initiatives underway. As a gift to the team, first the leadership team has to identify, which are high-priority ones that we think would benefit from having these new attributes built in with these new practices. Then as a gift to the team say, “We’re going to support you and infuse some of the best practices, some of the best eventuality system-infused operating approaches that help you be different together sooner while you’re delivering on the business imperatives.”

So you can deliver on your objective and at the end of it you’ll be able to tell a story about what worked well and how we would not have achieved this initiative at the level of growth and the level of results if we hadn’t been able to be more collaborative. We hadn’t been able to voice our own ideas and new perspectives about what might work better and challenge the boss and all those things that we’ve been talking about. The idea of building a model that accelerates in the initiative in two sprints. One to four week sprints. That’s how it works, right? It forces the iterative process and allows for learning and helps justify funding and adoption later based on what’s working. You build it in a way that allows you to engage everyone differently from the beginning in a way that you’re co-creating and validating what you’re learning along the way.

The first idea is it’s going to take longer or we’re in a hurry … we’re busy, we’re working on these things. We can’t slow down to build this in. I promise you, it speeds it up. Lean start-up and agile, these approaches speed up the process or at least it helps you slow down so you can go faster later. It’s an integrated approach, if you will, integrating the entrepreneurship practices, tools, with some innovation. With some real-time facilitation and advisory support to help people do both the mindset shift and the behavioral shift in action, under stress, under timelines, deadline deliverables, etc while you’re building the competencies. You can’t really do any of that outside of … the idea of having an innovation portfolio we’re actually helping the team talk through the prioritization, the expertise, with discipline and accountability so these things just aren’t ideas everywhere and execution everywhere. There’s got to be a high-level view of what you’re working on and why. Well get into that another time.

This is what the approach looks like. This is what the plan might look like. So bringing everything together that we’ve been talking about. You have your qualitative interviews and quantitative culture assessment. Helping to get to what the from-to is. You’re doing the debrief about this. Sharing the data and working with leaders to help prioritize. What are the business priorities that, if they were supported with this prototype approach, it would help them increase the likelihood of success for their initiative and deliver better business results? How do you bring those groups together and have collaboration sessions where you can co-create these prototypes, these pilot plans, whatever you want to call them that are in service of delivering on the business priority? While you’re doing that, at some point, there’s all kinds of simultaneous stuff happening that I’m just rifling through, but the idea of leadership impact assessments. An individual and team leadership assessments so you can see where the levers are for individual team improvement plans.

Then, once you’ve chosen the prototypes, once you’ve chosen what the business imperatives are. That’s when we’re going to start to line up. This is how we’re going to learn while doing together. We’re going to focus it. Not the whole enterprise, we’re going to focus on a few business initiatives. It’s a low-risk, with potential high-value learning opportunity and under-pressure, under-deadline, we have to deliver real results. It’s real learning. People who go through the process will get a better chance of what works. They’ll get a better sense too of what structural issues, structural elements are in the way, reward systems, etc. They’ll come out of it with all kinds of ideas and input on the climate stuff as well as the culture stuff and what’s working to help deliver and do our work better. They’re going to be able to talk about what they like the most.

Again, simultaneously supporting those teams, you’ve got the individual and team application coaching, group coaching as needed, and real-time facilitation so that, in the moment when stress is high, and the default is counterproductive behaviors and mindsets are taking over. We can help the team recover more quickly and learn in the middle of it how to employ the processes, the mindsets, the behaviors, the skills that are must more conducive to innovation teams and better innovation outcomes. We build in the debriefs, the sprint debriefs to better understand what’s working and what’s not. All along the way, again, if you’re into lean start-up and all the Eric Reid stuff. It’s very much like that, in that, it helps learn by doing on real stuff. The idea of alignment/transformation/execution now fits into this.

Just giving you some visuals there and kind of wrapping it up there. It’s these two things, the inner game and the outer game working together, intertwined in the helix, and I don’t want to reiterate all of that. I’m going to stop and I know we’ve got somewhere between five and ten minutes to talk through questions. Tim, I’m going to turn it back to you. I’ve been racing through. Anything else that you wanted to add that I missed or clarify?

Tim Kuppler: Just one thing and then I want to cement and want to go back to that parachute, where it might be holding you back from a mindset standpoint wanting it to pull you forward. But that’s not just a flip like a light switch, right? What you talked about with this prototype structure of trying some new things, with a team in an organized approach, to drive learning faster so you as an individual will learn newer ways to be more effective in the groups to translate it to the results. Yes, we want to spread those to other groups and teams. But at least with those involved, they won’t be able to stop spreading it because those things that work, they’re going to naturally apply those concepts on other improvement plans and strategies so it starts to be a gradual shift of that parachute. But it only comes through combining this mindset-shifting work. Sometimes assessment coaching with the application on: how do we bring it to light in a team to deliver results?

It’s all really self-reinforcing and without those pieces you don’t drive the shared-learning and you don’t end up shifting the work climate and these norms that are the parachute holding you back.

Raphael Vitón: Nice. Thank you. So Barbie I know…

Barbie: Thank you Raff. I have a few questions. I think this one is for you, Tim. Do we really need another assessment to tell us that we are not innovative? You know that we aren’t. Our engagement, our morale survey already told us that we need to change. What do you recommend we tell the CEO?

Tim Kuppler: Well, your engagement or morale survey was a climate survey. So, yes, we know our engagement isn’t good or innovation isn’t good, but we don’t know culturally what’s driving it. We don’t know what those expectations are and is it a bunch of aggressive stuff that’s holding us back? Or is this passive stuff? Or is it the combination of both? Unless we get a language around it through some approach and assessment is one approach. It’s hard to go at this to drive the understanding needed. We’re making that organization visible. Yes, the lack of innovation and engagement is already visible, but we don’t really have a good way of having a good language around what isn’t visible, what’s going through people’s heads, so we can tackle it effectively. I advocate an assessment, qualitative and quantitative. There’s other ways to create that understanding, but let’s go below the surface.

Barbie: That’s great. Thank you Tim. This is for either one of you. Does the whole company or whole culture really have to be innovative or creative?

Raphael Vitón: I’ll take it Tim. The answer is no, not at the same degree. There’s those two systems that I talked about. There’s definitely a huge need for the reliability system. So, suggesting that everybody needs to be on the far right eventuality side would ruin the idea of the polarity about managing the polarity, which is what we want. It varies, depending on what’s happening in the industry, what’s happening with competitors and what your goals are would drive which regions, which roles, which groups need to be more innovative than others. Whether it’s centralized or distributed, very unique for each company, each situation, each context.

Tim Kuppler: I would add that over the long-term that maybe the answer is we better be moving in that direction of being more adaptive and innovative. With what we’ve seen with industries and organizations being totally disrupted, is that if you’re not at least working along that path. You might not be there and your whole organization, but if you’re not working to be more innovative and adaptive in the marketplace. You could really be blindsided and then it makes it very difficult to implement well-organized improvement efforts when you’re just trying to keep the lights on.

Barbie: Great, thank you. One more question, because we’re short on time, is there a danger of creating a learning culture within a dominant culture of aggressive-defensive that ultimately crushes the start-up culture.

Tim Kuppler: Yes, by definition. There’s no one culture. What you’re trying to do here is get a little subculture going and prove it works. Only if it works will others say, “Yeah. Maybe we should try that approach more broadly. Or we should try it on these other innovatives, other initiatives.” The danger is it will be completely crushed so that’s why there has to be a leadership team behind it. It doesn’t need to be the top of the whole organization, but maybe in a department or division, a location, something that supports seeing this through on a top priority and using some new techniques to accelerate results. That always looks better than the path that’s lacking the inclusion, lacking the communication where people aren’t speaking up. Just give it a shot and you’ll see that the approach is substantially better.

Barbie: Great. Thank you Tim. Thank you Raff for today’s sessions. I hope everyone enjoyed it and we will post a recording online shortly. Have a great rest of your day everyone.

Tim Kuppler: Thank you everyone for attending.

Raphael Vitón: See you everybody. Really quick, if you have additional questions that we couldn’t get to, feel free to email. I’m happy to jump on the phone and talk through any other additional information you’d like.

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