Organisational culture and its pitfalls

Keith Sawyer says you should avoid recruiting people who “fit your culture” if you want to support innovation.

We know from creativity research that the most innovative teams have cognitive diversity. That means that each person has a different set of ideas, practices, and knowledge. This drives innovation, because the most creative ideas combine very different ideas. If everyone in the group has the same cognitive material inside their skull, they won’t make those “distant combinations” that result in breakthrough creativity.

I’d add that it’s easy to talk about an organisation’s culture as if it’s some fixed thing, creating the comforting illusion that if we act on it in a certain way, it can be controlled. A lot energy gets wasted on cultural change programmes.

I prefer Nancy Dixon’s notion that culture is localised: individual groups within the organisation create their own cultures. The culture of the whole organisation, if it can be said to be a thing at all, emerges from those. Perhaps the best way to influence culture is to notice the little opportunities for change in each little conversation we have.

 

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