Factor 8: Tolerance from the Corporate Norm

The factor concerns tolerance for variances from the corporate norm.

Factor extremes as measured in survey:

Departure from the corporate norm is encouraged


Sticking to the corporate norm is encouraged

Overview to restructuring initiatives

Signaling the acceptance, and more so, the encouragement, of initiatives to stretch the goals of the corporation, can lead to a more favorable innovative culture. The starting point is probably for the senior management group to articulate the importance of innovation to the future health and economic performance of the corporation. Such a move should create a widely shared and accepted view that innovation, and it’s attendant departures from the corporate norm, is essential to the corporation. Rewards, recognition and career advancement should reinforce the articulation of this vision.

An example of leadership which fosters a culture for innovation

Deere & Company; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Robert W. Lane, from an address he gave on May 7, 2007, addresses how Deere is ‘Driving Growth through Innovation’. Mr. Lane makes note of the ‘culture of respect’ and the ‘desire to create an environment where individuals can feel comfortable challenging the status quo, voicing their opinion, and seeking way to help each other be successful’; a clear indication of the openness to challenging the corporate norm.

Possible Initiatives to Modify and Improve the Culture for Innovation

Make it clear that sticking to the norm is important, as is innovation

Objective setting for individuals and for groups within the corporation is a means by which managers can articulate, at all supervisory levels, the importance of innovation and, where appropriate, encourage by specifically approving non-normative action, changes to the corporate norm or generally recognized practice.

Adapting to the new business reality

By the time some managers reach the upper echelons of a corporation their experience, buried as it is in previous years arduous work effort, may no longer be so relevant to the innovation challenges underway. It is probably safe to assume therefore that a good part of all prior experience is not applicable to the new reality. Either the new senior managers adapt to the reality or they should be reassigned. Leadership for such a move must come from the very top; the C.E.O., and the senior management group, as no others in the organization are so well placed to influence the way ahead. Only the senior group can really make the changes that may be necessary.

Develop a tolerance for new ideas from different people

Any corporation wishing to improve its innovativeness must establish a culture of openness to new ideas and not a culture which stultifies the sometimes crazy but eventually great ideas put forth by mavericks and others. The trick for many companies, as they increase in size, is to maintain the innovative culture that was present at the beginning of their successful growth. Tolerating mavericks, even more so, encouraging mavericks or people who could even be called zealots about new ideas, is one of the keys to fostering innovation. Keeping the ‘suits’ away from the creative side of the business is another way of saying: let’s not always stick to the corporate rules.