Management and its people that have a mutual dependency. Culture can enhance or inhibit the tendencies to innovate, it certainly has a profound influence on the innovative capacity and provides the rich nutrients to nurture innovation or kill it. Culture has always been regarded as a primary determinant of innovation.
To foster innovation and its environment, key levels of management and individuals must be committed to creating an environment and culture that promotes creativity, be engaged and promote the ability to promote change in nimble, agile and flexible ways to meet changing conditions in the market place and with customers. It is this creativity through the innovations that are flowing through the organization that often needs a critical focal point to create a change that has impact.
Steps To Creating an Innovative Environment:
- Role Model: Ask powerful questions, engage in creative thinking and use tools and exercises to get people “out of the box”.
- Dish Out Recognition: Recognize the right things including when mistakes move you to another level.
- Make it Safe to Explore: Let it be okay to explore new or even crazy ideas. Talk about what is “beyond” possible and what you can see or the resources you currently have.
- Provide Time & Resources: Give people the time and space to be innovative and they will. Provide spaces, technology or outside resources for people to innovate.
- Always Search for the Second Right Answer: Get in the habit of always searching for the 2nd and 3rd right answer. Never stop at the first right answer. This is what limits innovative thinking.
- Make it a Goal or Strategy: Make innovation an expectation or a way that you do business.
Ekvall’s model was divided into two halves, each comprising five factors. This also allowed Ekvall’s model to be split over two pages, with the first entitled ‘atmosphere for work’, and the second entitled ‘attitude to work.’ Maybe this is why I like it for this defining split for deepening the conversation.
Again, to use this you attribute 100 points per section to gauge relative importance using a simple Likert-type scale with anchor phrases at each extreme.
Organizational Climate for Creativity and Innovation (1996) is the article that sums up all of Ekvall’s research within organizational climate and creativity throughout the second half of the 20th Century.
This was where Ekvall formalized his ten dimensions of creative climate (challenge, freedom, idea support, trust / openness, dynamism / liveliness, playfulness / humor, debates, conflicts, risk-taking, and idea time) as well as described the implications of the Creative Climate Questionnaire (CCQ).
The ten dimension factors from Ekvall’s creative climate questionnaire.
Attitude to Work dimensions
Idea Time: Amount of time people can use (and do use) for elaborating new ideas. In the high idea-time situation, possibilities exist to discuss and test suggestions not included in the task assignment. There are opportunities to take the time to explore and develop new ideas. Flexible timelines permit people to explore new avenues and alternatives. In the reverse case, every minute is booked and specified. The time pressure makes thinking outside the instructions and planned routines impossible.
Risk-Taking: Tolerance of uncertainty and ambiguity in the workplace. In the high risk-taking case, bold initiatives can be taken even when the outcomes are unknown. People feel as though they can “take a gamble” on their ideas. People will often “go out on a limb” to put an idea forward. In a risk-avoiding climate there is a cautious, hesitant mentality. People try to be on the “safe side” and often “sleep on the matter.” They set up committees and they cover themselves in many ways.
Challenge and Involvement: Degree to which people are involved in daily operations, long-term goals, and visions. When there is a high degree of challenge and involvement people feel motivated and committed to making contributions. The climate is dynamic, electric, and inspiring. People find joy and meaningfulness in their work. In the opposite situation, people are not engaged and feelings of alienation and apathy are present. Individuals lack interest in their work and interpersonal interactions are dull and listless.
Freedom: independence in behaviour exerted by the people in the organization. In a climate with much freedom, people are given the autonomy and resources to define much of their work. They exercise discretion in their day-to-day activities. Individuals are provided the opportunity and take the initiative to acquire and share information about their work. In the opposite climate people work within strict guidelines and roles. They carry out their work in prescribed ways with little room to redefine their tasks.
Idea Time Support: ways new ideas are treated. In the supportive climate, ideas and suggestions are received in an attentive and professional way by bosses, peers, and subordinates. People listen to each other and encourage initiatives. Possibilities for trying out new ideas are created. The atmosphere is constructive and positive when considering new ideas. When idea support is low, the automatic “no” is prevailing. Fault-finding and obstacle-raising are the usual styles of responding to ideas.
Work Atmosphere dimensions.
Conflict: Presence of personal and emotional tensions in the organization. When the level of conflict is high, groups and individuals dislike and may even hate each other. The climate can be characterized by “interpersonal warfare.” Plots, traps, power and territory struggles are usual elements of organizational life. Personal differences yield gossip and slander. In the opposite case, people behave in a more mature manner; they have psychological insight and control of impulses. People accept and deal effectively with diversity.
Debate: Occurrence of encounters and disagreements between viewpoints, ideas, and differing experiences and knowledge. In the debating organization many voices are heard and people are keen on putting forward their ideas for consideration and review. People can often be seen discussing opposing opinions and sharing a diversity of perspectives. Where debate is missing, people follow authoritarian patterns without questioning them.
Playfulness/Humor: Spontaneity and ease displayed within the workplace. A professional, yet relaxed atmosphere where good-natured jokes and laughter occur often is indicative of this dimension. People can be seen having fun at work. The climate is seen as easy-going and light-hearted. The opposite climate is characterized by gravity and seriousness. The atmosphere is stiff, gloomy and cumbrous. Jokes and laughter are regarded as improper and intolerable.
Trust/Openness: emotional safety in relationships. When there is a high degree of trust, individuals can be genuinely open and frank with one another. People count on each other for professional and personal support. People have a sincere respect for one another and give credit where credit is due. Where trust is missing, people are suspicious of each other, and therefore, they closely guard themselves, their plans, and their ideas. In these situations people find it extremely difficult to openly communicate with each other.
Dynamism/Liveliness: The eventfulness of life in the organization. In the highly dynamic situation, new things are happening all the time and new ways of thinking about and handling issues often occur. The atmosphere is lively and full of positive energy. There is a kind of psychological turbulence that is described by people in those organizations as “full speed”, “go,” “breakneck,” “maelstrom,” “and the like. People get caught up in the excitement and energy. The opposite situation could be compared to a slow jog-trot with no surprises. There are no new projects; no different plans. Everything goes its usual way.