An organizational culture that enables innovation

Having worked in California for a few years, I’ve been exposed to what is known as the “valley culture”. Silicon Valley has that “bubbling energy factor” wherever you look around whether it is Starbucks, Warming Hut, Santana Row, Shah restaurant and so on.

The people in the valley are always thinking of creating new things that stimulate the mind and can generate business value. I’ve noticed that the valley folks usually debate about ideas using the “5 wives & 1 husband” theory (asking questions like Why, What, When, Who, Where and How). They have their eyes wide open in order to look out for opportunities around them. They love experimenting and failure is considered “OK” in this startup culture. Even if they fail, they move on to the next idea to experiment with the same enthusiasm and energy. Residents at the valley are very good at networking and know that meeting new people is a great way to get exposed to new ideas. The valley has what I call as an “innovation enabling environment”, which facilitates one’s mind to participate, collaborate, experiment and to network.

If better innovation has to happen in India like in the West, the mindset of our people has to drastically change and organizations have to redefine their culture. We need to recreate the entrepreneurial eco-system and encourage everyone in the organization to act as a catalyst for innovation.

For true innovation to occur, 3 things need to happen

  • The organization structure should be agile, flat and open. Kill hierarchy!
  • People in the organization should have freedom and flexibility to participate in innovation related initiatives.
  • We need to stop thinking about money and rather focus on the vision of a project. The money will automatically flow.

A great case study in this regards is Apple, who only focused on continuously building great products. Starbucks focused on the “romance of the coffee experience” by enhancing the experience of drinking coffee. We need to encourage a work culture that tolerates failure.

The currency for the 21st century is innovation. Having an organization culture that encourages innovation, would bring out the best innovations in the Indian sub-continent.

Sriharsha Nagaraj is the Director, Business Development at Compassites.He has overall 16 years of IT experience and has played multiple roles. He has experience in product development, quality assurance and operations infrastructure design. He has a deep understanding of key organization issues.He has also worked as Technical Project Manager with Apple Inc in Cupertino at Exilant Technologies. Sriharsha holds an engineering degree in IT from Malnad College of Engineering (Mysore University) and International Business Management from IIM Calcutta.

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