7 reasons why your organisation struggles to create a generative culture

A generative culture within an organisational is characterised by high levels of innovation, learning, and adaptability. It is marked by openness, collaboration, and a focus on continuous improvement. In such a culture, employees are able to more freely take initiative, share ideas, and experiment without fear of failure. The Westrum model generative model is discussed in this paper >>

They can fail or struggle to have an impact in an organisation for a variety of reasons.

Resistance to Change

  • Existing Hierarchies: Ingrained hierarchical structures and traditional power dynamics can resist the shift towards a more generative, collaborative culture.
  • Employee Mindset: Employees accustomed to a command-and-control environment may find it difficult to adapt to a culture that requires initiative, creativity, and autonomy.
  • Entrenched systems: Established organisations tend to have entrenched systems, processes, and ways of doing things that can make them resistant to change. A generative culture requires openness to new ideas, experimentation, and risk-taking, which can be challenging for organisations with a rigid or hierarchical structure.
  • Siloed mentality: Organisations with a siloed structure, where different departments or teams operate in isolation, can struggle to foster the cross-functional collaboration and knowledge-sharing necessary for a generative culture.

Lack of Leadership Support

  • Inconsistent Leadership: If leaders do not fully commit to or model the behaviours associated with a generative culture, efforts to establish and sustain such a culture will likely fail.  Leading by example from the highest levels in the organisation is key.  Learning and adaption is key.
  • Short-term Focus: Leaders focused on short-term results may not invest the time and resources needed to develop and nurture a generative culture.  Many leaders prioritise short-term targets and immediate results over long-term innovation and creativity. A generative culture requires patience and a willingness to invest time and resources into exploring new ideas and approaches, which can be challenging in a climate focused on quick wins and immediate returns.
  • Lacking diverse thinking: A generative culture needs different perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. Organisations with homogeneous teams or a lack of diverse thinking and experiences may struggle to generate truly novel and innovative ideas.

Insufficient Resources and Support

  • Resource Allocation: Without proper investment in tools, training, and support systems, employees cannot effectively engage in innovative and creative work.  Generative cultures require employees to be comfortable with ambiguity, communicate effectively, and provide constructive feedback. Some organisations need to invest more in training and development to equip their workforce with these skills.
  • Time Constraints: Pressures to meet immediate targets can leave little room for experimentation and creativity, stifling generative behaviours.  Targets that are set are key to driving behaviours.  Short term fixes to get a project to ‘green’ for example can be misinterpreted as root causing and solving problems.  The two can be drastically different.

Cultural Misalignment

  • Incompatible Values: If the organisation’s underlying values and norms are not aligned with generative culture principles, efforts to cultivate such a culture will clash with the existing culture.  The need for broadcast style large scale meetings and presentations for example might clash with the need for true cooperation.
  • Subcultural Differences: Different departments or teams within the organisation may have varying degrees of readiness or willingness to adopt a generative culture, leading to fragmentation and inconsistency.  The need to get things done in one part of the organisation may clash with the need to feedback and learn with another part.
  • Industry Norms: Some industries may have established norms and practices that are inherently resistant to the flexibility and openness required for a generative culture.

Lack of Clear Vision and Goals

  • Undefined Purpose: Without a clear vision and understanding of what a generative culture looks like and why it is important, employees may lack direction and motivation.  The lack of top down and bottom up understanding and appreciation of the benefits may clash with short term leadership or operational motivations.
  • Ambiguous Metrics: Measuring the success of cultural initiatives can be challenging because they are not well enough understood for example, and without clear and simple metrics, it is difficult to gauge progress and make necessary adjustments.  Targets will drive the right and wrong types of behaviour.

Fear of Failure

  • Risk Aversion: A culture that penalises mistakes rather than viewing them as learning opportunities will discourage experimentation and innovation.  Where failure is stigmatised for example or seen as something to be avoided at all costs, a willingness to take risks and learn from failures, can be difficult for organisations that prioritise playing it safe.
  • Performance Pressure: High performance pressures can make employees wary of taking risks, as they may fear negative consequences if their innovative efforts do not succeed.  Why would an employee for example spend more time trying to root cause a customer support ticket when they are targeted on short term fixes and ticket closures?
  • Lack of psychological safety: A generative culture requires an environment where employees feel safe to express their ideas, ask questions, and challenge assumptions without fear of retribution or ridicule. If employees don’t feel psychologically safe, they may be hesitant to contribute their unique perspectives and ideas.

Inadequate Communication

  • Lack of Transparency: Poor communication from leadership about the goals and benefits of a generative culture can lead to misunderstandings and mistrust.
  • Feedback Mechanisms: Without effective channels for feedback, employees may feel that their contributions are not valued or that their concerns are not addressed.

Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive strategy that involves commitment from leadership, alignment of organisational values and goals, adequate resource allocation, and continuous support and reinforcement of generative principles throughout the organisation.  Overall, creating a generative culture requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses these challenges. It’s an ongoing process that requires commitment from leadership and a willingness to experiment and adapt. If you’d like to get in touch, we’re happy to share ideas and chat..

“I stopped caring about who was the winner and who was the loser.

Now I care only about knowing more than yesterday” – Walt Disney

”One day I learned that dreams exist to come true. And since that day I do not sleep for rest. I sleep just to dream” – Walt Disney