Six Steps to an Insanely Innovative Culture – Part 2

Church of McDonaldsEvery organisation and group of people has a culture. But, just as you wouldn’t want your brand to be used and interpreted in any wild way, culture is a human extension of the brand and must be ‘designed’ along with the rest of business strategy. Culture as a loose end can contradict the already difficult efforts to establish the brand message, or it can plainly do a lot of damage.

This is PART 2 of the article Six Steps to an Insanely Innovative Culture. Check out the first four steps.

If you have followed the previous four steps, you should be heading towards this transformation: building a consciously self-aware organisation with a clear focus on where it is going, how it intends to play and win, with a clear Leadership message that informs and inspires and unites people so that they can move forward faster, safer, more efficiently…

5. Purposeful Employee Network – Symbols and Rituals

Have you ever observed couriers, tradesman or truck drivers with corporate insignia on their vehicles, doing shocking things on the road? Have you made a mental note not to deal with that company?

The good news is that Cultural change is possible even on a country level.For a business it is an imperative to build a desired culture. If you want to thrive through the two pillars of growth – marketing and innovation – you simply cannot afford culture to be a loose end.

Here is a little story. I have been traveling to Italy since early teenage years with my parents – we sort of gravitated south in summer. Apart from constant whistles, young women were often subjected to a bottom pinch from a stranger. Then, in 2010 I was in Italy again, a little older, and there were no bottom pinches (not missed) but also no whistles.  I didn’t take much notice of this at the time, but then I read the “Eat, pray, love” bestseller, which touched on this cultural phenomenon, and discovered that over the last twenty years of so, Italy has actually ‘cleaned up’ this custom and changed the so very Italian culture. It wasn’t so much any regulations, as the ‘social pressure’ exerted on men through both young women who didn’t take the status quo for granted and younger men who learnt different attitudes to women.

Another story: large retailer. When I joined this large retail chain in mid 90s as a marketing manager, I found a traditional ‘retail’ culture: we know what we are doing, we have been doing it for … years. Basically, Margaret, this is how we operate: buyers buy, advertising department puts together a catalogue and promotional materials, merchandisers display stuff, and IT department turns on the promotional button.

Marketing? Nice one. You just stay here in the ivory tower and let us do our job.

Well, I couldn’t. My task was to reduce the reliance on discounts and improve profitability of business. By getting buyers involved in identifying a USP (unique selling proposition) for different product groups and promotions, we started seeing results. Buyers learnt to consult with marketing to launch new ranges – as did merchandisers. Everyone was keen to get results. We also provided a strategic brief to IT people to ‘innovate’ to support these core strategies with data. The ‘retail’ culture became ‘brand marketing’ culture – setting a deeper differentiation between us and the many competitors. It took less than a year to kick in.

A Culture is Built on Symbols and Rituals

Cult-McDonalds-2The lesson here is that Culture change is possible, doesn’t need to take a long time and the essence is to connect people around winning ideas. And, to ensure that the system is enduring, you need to establish Rituals and provide Symbols.

If you look at any enduring cultures, the most visible ones are religions.

Why do churches have symbols high in the sky and why priests wear certain clothing? Visibility of Symbols!

Why was Sunday a day without work? Was it to make peasants happy or to entice them to go to church so that they could hear the ‘brand’ message regularly? Why do church bells ring at a certain time on a Sunday? Why was a mass always at a certain time?

These are all Rituals carefully designed to compel everybody to participate – by also putting peer pressure on those who did not comply!

What was the real attraction of going to church? Opportunity to dress like ‘you are going to church’, to meet people and socialise, to exchange news and gossip, to connect the community around the institution! Was it an opportunity to be seen and be noticed and recognised – an opportunity to sit in the same room and share in the same event as the richest people in town?

Think of your business as a church of your ‘brand’ religion. You want to create Culture around Rituals and Symbols to regularly attract people: employees, customers and general public.

Consider this now:

  • How can you create a Program that will connect Employees in a Purposeful Network?
  • What Symbols can you create and elevate to high visibility?
  • What Rituals can you create and offer to facilitate connecting people and ideas.
  • How do you use the program to nurture diversity, connect silos, drive involvement – and ‘peer pressure’ to participate?

While churches have lost due to many new options for people, you are on a winner. There are now endless possibilities to connect people: just the way they like it – online and offline.


That’s a topic on its own. One thing to remember: money is not a long-term motivator. It is a hygiene factor. The basic requirements have to be met. You have so many more possibilities to engage and motivate people without buying them.

One more thing:  Praise people for ‘effort’ – never for talent. Research shows that praising people for effort drives future results and behaviour exponentially, while praising natural traits such as ‘intelligence’ inhibits performance.

Here are a few TIPS to get the ball rolling:

  • Use external events as rewards | Use methods from your external marketing: how do you entice customers to love you, buy from you, and buy more often?
  • Identify innovation elite – champions | avoid reliance on ‘usual suspects’
  • Set strategic challenges – regularly | be diligent with feedback
  • Reward & recognition system | praise, praise and praise – effort and behaviour, not talent (you will be praising the use of talent).


This step leads directly to having your workforce connected and equipped with skills to find new and better solutions.

By following certain rituals they are consistently learning and reinforcing mutual behaviours – resulting in a proactive workforce that naturally encourages and rewards the right behaviours. Through the ‘purposeful network, useful ideas are discussed and tossed around.

The new mindset: “Ideas are not made of glass here – can be played with”.


After implementing the first five steps in the 6 steps to InnoCULTURE, you will have a Consciously self-aware organisation with… a clear focus on where it is going; with strong Leadership that people want to follow … Knowing what will get us there … With unique solutions … Faster, safer, more efficiently… and, knowing how we can build on these strengths to repeat our success in new contexts…


VI.   Building Innovation Toolbox and Capacity

BMG-toolboxOK, now you can touch that Toolbox. You have passed the test and know how to build a Brand Culture that supports your strategy and your competitive advantage. Now you can accelerate your innovation capacity with specialist tools.

How to Build the Innovation Toolbox:

There are two types of strategic learning: focused learning to solve important short term problems and opportunities, and broad ‘scanning’ that leads to uncovering new ideas, new technologies and solutions to further distance your organisation from competitors.

The first type makes you simply better at what you do. The second type ensures that you don’t have any ‘blind spots’, unexpected developments relevant to your competitive advantage, that can come from the left lane and kill your brand.

The social peer pressure of the ‘purposeful network’ is that ideas are pushed for implementation, rather than sitting in the holding bay and being bureaucratically assessed like in the ‘stage-gate’ system.

To ensure the agility and strategic activity, it is essential to encourage peer-to-peer mentoring program that works both vertically and across knowledge disciplines. Identify and recognise the natural champions, people with passion for both action and learning, to cross-pollinate ideas across silos.

You are building a cultural mindset: “Innovation and business improvement is part of my job.”


This step of giving people bright, shiny new ‘tools’, such as creativity, problem solving, mentoring, communication and presentation, serves two purposes. Helps them do the strategic work better (to support the clear Vision and Mission) and helps them connect better to leverage mutual know-how. You have the foundations of an organisation that is capable of innovating with agility and purpose: strategically learning, and equipped to create valuable solutions for their customers – fast.

The ultimate and continued outcome is your competitive edge.


After implementing all six steps in the 6 steps to InnoCULTURE, you will have a consciously self-aware organisation with… a clear focus on where it is going; with strong Leadership that people want to follow … Knowing what will get us there … With unique solutions … Faster, safer, more efficiently… and, knowing how we can build on these strengths to repeat our success in new contexts… To continually improve our competitive advantage to attract and keep good customers.

Bottom line: Engaged, Informed Workforce conditioned For Change, Innovation and Agility! Unbeatable.

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Jojo-2InnoFuture is a Business Culture specialist helping SME leaders put their Competitive Strategy on every employee’s agenda to consistently deliver results in Productivity, Customer and Employee Brand Engagement, Continuous Innovation, and easier, more Profitable Sales. Looking for Growth?

TALK TO US ABOUT: Building the right Business Culture | Turning your Employees int ‘raving fans’ | Boosting your core Brand strength for higher market impact in the ‘connected age’ |

Margaret Manson | Chief Inspirator: M: 0407 66 11 30 | P: 03 9857 9215