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The Culture

Its obvious that culture will have a significant impact on the speed of the innovation-decision process of your colleagues. The process will be easier and faster if the culture supports and nurtures new ideas, allows time for people to learn and do new things, is patient enough to support innovations that have benefits in the long term, accepts that learning curves can be long, and does not consider failure to be a death sentence. A supportive culture helps people to deal with their emotions so that they can focus on the tasks ahead.

There must also be enough flexibility to allow change. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells the story of a man in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

What are you doing?

Cant you see? I'm sawing down this tree.

You look exhausted! How long have you been at it?

Over five hours, and I'm beat! This is hard work.

Well, why don't you take a break and sharpen that saw? I'm sure it would go a lot faster.

I don't have time to sharpen the saw. I'm too busy sawing!*

Unfortunately, there is usually little or no time to learn something that would increase efficiency and improve quality. Every successful learning initiative requires time for new activities: planning, collaborative work, training, and reflection. But realistically, change cannot occur without an up-front investment, even if there is strong interest. That said, small changes can happen even in the most conservative cultures, but you will need considerable patience because change will be slower.

Culture is also important because you need others who are willing to help with the change effort. Like it or not, you cant do it alone. In The Dance of Change, Peter Senge explains that a change effort needs many leaders:

It requires seeing how significant change invariably starts locally, and how it grows over time. And it requires recognizing the diverse array of people who play key roles in sustaining change—people who are leaders. We want to build institutions that, by their very nature, continually adapt and reinvent themselves, with leadership coming from many people in many places, not just from the top.*

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