A question was posed to senior executives recently. “What are the top trends that will impact organizational strategy over the next five years?” The results were nothing short of astonishing. By an overwhelming majority of 92%, senior executives said the drive for innovation was top of the list.
It has been pretty well documented that collaboration is one of the most beneficial contributors to bring about quality innovation. Almost always, collaborating puts us in a position have to reach across boundaries in order to bring varied areas of expertise into the equation. It’s what forces everyone to see things from different perspectives and new ideas typically emerge from that process. Of the same senior executives who were asked about the top trends, 86% of them said it was “extremely” important to collaborate across boundaries. The frightening statistic was that only 7% believed they did this effectively.
I don’t know about you, but I would never take 7% odds to Vegas…ever! Yet, many senior executives find themselves leading from this disadvantaged position. The common challenge, when there are multi-functional units, is the varied influence from management. The ultimate culprit of causing this disconnect can be summed up in one word. Culture.
Knocking over silos is no fun, but it is an absolute essential if you are going to innovate and lead “horizontally”. One of the best ways to approach it is by ensuring the organizational culture is developed with purpose. If innovation is what will be the driving force for organizations over the next half decade, then the culture needs to support and encourage whatever facilitates innovation.
Here are some tips to help be pro-active in developing a culture that fosters innovation by reaching across boundaries:
- Know your values – Culture develops around values. Always. They can be real values or perceived values by what has been exemplified. Culture is created whether done by intention or default. If your vision hasn’t been crafted around the values you want to define your organization, consider revising things in that area.
- Mix up your meetings – If you know a direction you’re wanting your organization to move (especially through innovation), decide which areas of your organization will be involved at some point in the process. Invite leaders from those areas to sit in and contribute to meetings. Don’t make it a token seat for them. Give them a voice that has value.
- Create a company “language” – Language dictates culture. If you don’t believe that, go live in another country for about a year. Don’t make it cheesy slogans, but meaningful words that support your values and vision. If it doesn’t support your values, then a mixed message is sent and no one will take things seriously.
- Make employee engagement a part of your strategy – So many organizations have employee engagement campaigns or initiatives. It becomes a perpetual cycle of new initiatives because it doesn’t work (or stick). It must be a permanent fixture in your strategy. People can sniff crap a mile away, so save yourself some time and make it a part of your culture from the start. Don’t patronize people. Genuinely value their contribution to making your organization successful.
- Make it public – Let it be known that there is genuine effort being made to move towards a collaborative and innovative culture. If the example is consistently set, people will follow it. If they feel valued and you’re making a solid effort to reach across boundaries, they will do the same with their counterparts in other functional units. Remove as many obstacles as possible that prevent them from doing this.
William Powell is the founder and President of The Leadership Advisor LLC. He is an advisor to international clients as a consultant, mentor, coach, and keynote speaker on the behavioral competencies of Leadership Development, Organizational Culture and Employee Engagement. You can contact William at his website, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.