10 Points Why Learning and Innovation are Important

A strong corporate culture is a stabilizer, a conservative force, and a way to making things meaningful and predictable. Strong cultures are by common opinion desirable as a basis for lasting and effective performance.[1] If employees believe in the corporate cultures and share a certain set of values, they will deliver better results without any measurable reason or financial subsidy. Kono (1998) even says that there is a high and measurable correlation between the extent of the corporate culture ‘vitalization’ and the company’s financial performance.[2] Thus it might be a recommendable idea not to change the culture at all and to keep it as stable as possible.

The world however is changing rapidly in in various respects. If a corporate culture has a very stable and rigid character, it might not be capable of aligning to a new and changed environment. Even if this culture has been grown and supported by the leadership in order to improve the overall performance, it might turn into a problem as soon as new environmental requirements require a newly aligned corporate culture.

Schein (2010) has ten principles to build and foster a learning culture:

 

  1. Proactivity

In this context, employees should never passively accept problems, changes or issues. They should work on and face any present or future issues and actively and proactively work on them. This behavior has to be driven by the leadership team. A possible tool could be the “four rooms model” which was described in chapter 3.2.2.

 

  1. Commitment to Learning to Learn

Employees should accept learning itself as an ability to learn and master. “Learning to learn” or “metacognition” is often described as having the capacity to monitor, evaluate, control and change on how one thinks and learns. It means reflecting on one’s learning and applying the results of one’s reflection intentionally.[3] Next to personal reflection, feedback is also a key to learning. Getting feedback, taking time to reflect and assimilate the implications of what the feedback has communicated.[4]

 

  1. Positive Assumptions About Human Nature (Theory Y)

The term theory Y has been published by McGregor (1960) and is based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The key position of theory Y is that “the essential task of management is to arrange organizational conditions so that people can achieve their own goals best by directing their efforts toward organizational rewards”[5]. If the individuals find no satisfaction in their work, management has to fall back to the counterpart “theory X” which is based on coercion, tight controls, threats and punishment – a management style that is based on the belief that subordinates are lazy, have little ambition, prefer to be led and do resist change.[6]

 

Theory Y assumes work as being as natural as play and leisure. It assumes that people want to contribute by assuming responsibility, working hard and smart, and putting something of themselves into the product or service.[7] Intrinsic motivation which comes from the inside of the employees, which is grown by fun, curiosity to new thing, personal morals and corporate culture is a much stronger and more powerful motivator compared to extrinsic motivation which comes from status symbols and the salary to name some examples. Theory Y supports the intrinsic motivation.

 

 

 

  1. Belief That the Environment Can Be Managed

Underlying this principle is the belief that a corporation might not always have to adapt its environmental change. It is the belief that even the environment can be managed to some extent.

 

  1. Commitment to Truth through Pragmatism and Inquiry

Any issues and problems that come up due to the business change or during a normal business day should be considered as being solvable through inquiry. Every employee needs to believe that any solution or the truth can be elaborated through research and analytic work. Leaders should also accept that they do not know everything. They have to accept to being not almighty and they also have to teach their subordinates this self-critical behavior.

 

  1. Positive Orientation toward the Future

The orientation concerning all learning topics tend toward the near future and not the past or present.

 

  1. Commitment to Full and Open Task-Relevant Communication

“Information is critical to effective problem solving and learning. More information is not necessarily a good thing because the more we know, the more questions we develop about what we don’t know.”[8] Due to this effect it sometimes might be useful for the leadership team not to simply communicate the truth and all information they know. It seems recommendable for the leadership team only to communicate the information which is important for the employees in order not to raise disturbance and insecurity.

 

  1. Commitment to Cultural Diversity

It seems evident that a more diverse corporate culture is more likely able to handle unexpected external changes or a more turbulent environment. In order to achieve this, the leadership team needs to show respect for cultural traditions and values and their impact on the business. They need to rapport with and among cultures and include key stakeholder groups. Additionally, they have to establish clear metrics that support and encourage more cultural diversity.[9]

 

  1. Commitment to Systemic Thinking

The traditional analytical thinking is a three-step process: taking apart, observing and then trying to explain the behavior. Systemic thinking puts “the system in the context of the larger environment of which it is part, and studies the role it plays […] in the larger whole”[10]. This means that the impression of things to happen because of a specific reason that can be found out does not match reality. Events do not happen for a specific reason. Events are part of a very complex world where everything is connected to anything. Thus events can happen for miscellaneous reasons, things that happen independent from each other, but in combination can lead to totally unexpected results.

 

  1. Belief That Cultural Analysis Is a Valid Set of Lenses for Understanding in Improving the World

There are various examples and approaches to analyzing a corporate culture. As the culture is based in communication, on behavior, speech, heritage and many other hard to measure soft-skills and soft-facts, there are currently few tools available to measure or analyze the corporate culture. However, any methods or projects that care about cultural analysis can create a massive impact when it comes to handle and manage changes, improvements or overall performance issues.

[1] Cp. Schein, E. (2010), p.365

[2] Cp. Kono, T; Clegg S. (1998), p.22

[3] McGrane, J, Lofthouse, R. (2010), p.20

[4] Cp. Schein, E. (2010), p.367

[5] McGregor D. (1960), p. 61

[6] Bolman, L.G.; Deal, T.E. (2003), p.118

[7] Walesh, S.G. (2000), p.101

[8] Schein, E. (2010), p.370

[9] Cp. Unesco (2009), p.182

[10] Davenport, T.H.; et. Al. (2007), p.384

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