Factor 10: Degree of formal communication

This factor deals with the degree of formal communication within the organization.

Factor extremes as measured in survey:

Lots of informal communication within the organization


Little communication in organization outside formal channels

Overview to restructuring initiatives

Innovative companies emphasize openness and the sharing of information on a broad basis throughout the organization. Having an ‘open-door policy’ used to be one of the ways that organizations encouraged openness. Today that same idea is enhanced significantly through: blogging, the use of intranet sites, not to mention the deliberate encouragement of grouping actions that actually bring people face-to face.

A good example of communication at work.

Factor #10 is one of the 8 most important building blocs to supportive corporate innovation.

Time Magazine of February 20th, 2006, reports on some aspects of Google’s culture when it comes to communication. Google has an internal communications dynamic that leads to a lot of information flowing inside the corporation. At the same time secrecy, at least to the outside world, is part of the culture. Google keeps a confidential list of 100 projects priorities under development. They do not generally talk about their strategy because it is ‘their strategy’. In fact it would appear that some disinformation to the outside world is encouraged – ‘I would rather have people think that we are confused than let our competitors know what we are going to do’.

At the same time they are intent on keeping information internal, there is an objective ‘To make all information available to all people all the time – 100% of free flow of data’. Innovation tends to bubble up from the bright minds. Teams of engineers come forward to present their ideas for a few hours. In reference to the actions taken during presentations note is made that, in a culture of creativity there is nothing wrong with keeping people off balance.

Possible Initiatives to Modify and Improve the Culture for Innovation

Reduce the layers in the organization by restructuring or downsizing

Corporations with many layers and much hierarchy are logical candidates for streamlining for reasons other than for improving communications but a significant side benefit of de-layering has to be an improvement in the quality and speed of information. Reducing management and supervisory layers is an affective way of not only cutting costs but also improving communications within a corporation.

Set up a open structure for sharing information throughout the corporation

With the advent of computer systems and information technology, the use of the intranet as a means of sharing information has grown enormously. For example: using bulletin board type software, one can set up a bulletin board comprised of two facets: Queries and Questions and Discussions. Extensions to this include the formation of interest groups to which all employees have access once they register in order to participate. Interest groups need not be confined to corporate activities. Blogs, as a further refinement, are an additional means of encouraging the exchange of information but it should be remembered that anything that is written is known to be available to all, including management and peers. ‘Standards of use’ need to be agreed to at the time registration.

Breakdown the traditional communication channels

Establish a people-whose-birthdays-are-on day to meet with the C.E.O for lunch. Organize, by way of a random selection of individuals, opportunities for rank and file to meet senior management and discuss topics of interest. Regular employee attitude surveys are one of the means of generating topics for discussions in such groups. Regular meetings in the company cafeteria, with full management attendance is another way of knocking down corporate silos.

A system of collaboration is correlated with the success of the use of knowledge management systems

Organizations, particularly professional service firms, that need to feed off the current knowledge of its staff, are most likely to easily learn the skills needed to make use of recently-available knowledge management systems. The professional-service culture is already a culture of collaboration since people are used to working in different geographical regions and often part of a multi-disciplinary team; often forcing collaboration as the only way to get on with the job. Other corporations, where the culture may be less requiring of a collegial approach may need train personnel in the use and behavior associated with these systems.