Organizational culture is very important in the pursuit of innovation, which is the major source of competitive advantage in the world today. Organizational culture is central to a company’s pursuit of innovation because it refers to the beliefs, values, attitudes, tradition and overall practices within and without an organization (Hill & Jones, 2001). If the culture of the organization permits creative thinking and entrepreneurship, then innovation can certainly flourish.
If the organizational culture, however, is very strict and adheres too much to its cherished traditions, routines and way of doing things, then innovation may be stifled and the organization will just rely on what has been tried and tested before. Such culture of adherence to past successes and ways of doing things will be inimical to the performance of the organization in the long run. As new factors, trends and issues in the market appear, the organization should continue to innovate and seek for ways to deliver better products and services that their clients will patronize.
An innovative organization will always learn how to make best use of trends and emerging factors in its environment. There are several elements of organizational culture that can either encourage or hinder the pursuit of innovation (Johnson, 1988). The paradigm or the statement of vision and mission of the organization defines what it is all about and from there all activities in the organization are derived. There are also processes, structures and policies in place in the organization. These formal structures can enable innovation in the organization if it is not stringent and strict enough to stifle innovations.
The power structures and the character of decision makers can encourage innovation. If there is openness in the leadership, this will trickle down to the grassroots level of the organization and will provide a rich backdrop where innovation can be cultivated. On the other hand, a leadership that puts a premium on seniority and too much authority fosters an adherence to established rules of conduct within the organization. In such a case, the pursuit of innovation may even be looked down as an act of insubordination. The symbols valued by the organization are also important in stimulating innovation and change.
Is change and innovation valued in the organization? Are efforts to this end recognized and valued? This is also further exemplified by the rituals and routines in the organization. As innovation becomes praised and recognized throughout the organization, the members of the organization will be motivated to pursue innovation. As the formal structures encourage and praise innovation, so will it extend to the informal stories and myths of the organization. This way, ordinary employees and people at the bottom level of the organizational hierarchy will talk about the importance of innovation in the organization.
Organizational culture can work for the pursuit of innovation in any given company or corporation. Organizations should deliberately work for the integration of innovation awareness in all levels. When this happens, the organization will become entrepreneurial, always looking out for means to improve and excel on their chosen niche in the market. With innovation, the organization can continue with its usual activities and it can even expand its operations to other areas where it can perform best. An organizational culture that fosters innovation is a must in this highly competitive world.
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