strategic innovation & design

Designing an Innovation Culture

culture & capability design insight strategy

Alex Osterwalder is a man who, by his own admission, is somewhat obsessed with tools. And he's pretty adept at creating them. His 'Business Model Canvas' and 'Value Proposition Canvas' have been put into practice across the globe by start ups through to multinational corporations. 

An understanding and application of these tools is often what separates the start ups that succeed from those that fail. And as much as they help a start up search for a winning customer value proposition and a viable business model, they are also used by established organisations to help them innovate, to develop new offerings that will ensure their future prosperity as old models are disrupted.

Of course, delivering innovation requires more than the trained application of such tools within an agile environment. The right culture, a start-up culture, is a critical enabler of innovation, one that is inherently at odds with the culture that develops over time within established companies who have moved into the refining of their business model execution. 

Late last year, Osterwalder shared a new tool that was designed - after several iterations, naturally - in collaboration with the original developer Dave Gray. It's called the 'Culture Map'.

Easy to apply, it enables individuals and teams to evaluate the key components of an organisation's culture today, and to map out and design the culture that is required to achieve the future strategic innovation agenda.

Osterwalder recommends starting by focussing on the current observable behaviours - how people interact, the language they use - then mapping these to the outcomes that these are driving within the organisation. Comparing these with the desired behaviours and outcomes will start the conversation around the blockers and the enablers, the key pieces that will enable the shift from the current to the desired culture.

  • Blockers of an innovative culture would include elements such a putting business plans before desirability, linear not agile processes, risk aversion, lack of incentive structures.   
  • Enablers of an innovative culture include elements such as leadership support, legitimacy, authority and resource allocation to agile processes, lean rituals, skills development and appropriate reward systems. 

Osterwalder defends the absence of 'values' from the map. "You have to have the right enablers to encourage the right behaviors to expect the right outcomes. I really do believe that you can’t just slap a list of phrases on the wall and expect your employees to enact and embrace them as values".

Of course, whilst the tool may be easy to apply, achieving that cultural shift is always going to be the challenge...but it should help to get everyone on the same page from the outset.



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