the innovation dialema

The Growing Culture of Fixing Things

Whether you try to fix a person, family, corporation or country, your attempts will most likely be in vain. The approach to fix something is fundamentally flawed.

That approach operates on the premise that something is wrong. And once it’s fixed, everything will be better.

One of the biggest challenges to fixing a person or situation that is considered broken is that they may defend their position as right, even if they know it is ineffective.

Understand your Company’s Culture

In the case of a company, there may be merit in wanting to extinguish a culture of silos and increase collaboration. At the same time, many successful enterprises are infested with fiefdoms. To tell the beneficiaries of these fiefdoms they are wrong for their behavior may cause them to resist a new culture. In fact, from their perspective, everything works well. They have proof. They are winning.

In an organization, if you want to transform the culture from silos to one of empowerment and collaboration, you will have to structure the business with reward systems for collaboration. On the surface, it may appear that I am saying you have to pay people to cooperate more effectively. That too would be flawed. The real incentive to operate effectively is not predicated on superfluous remuneration. And that would be changing just to change.

Create an Environment that Encourages Initiative

Instead of changing for the sake of changing, create an environment that requires people to think and act differently. The simplest way to accomplish this is to create a big project. When John F. Kennedy declared a man on the moon, he created a project. It united everyone in the United States.

When you asked the janitor sweeping the floors what they were doing, they did not say they were sweeping or cleaning. They declared their job was to help send a man to the moon. They knew that if they did not keep the premises clean, it would adversely affect the engineers, managers, astronauts, etc.

Encourage your People to Think Differently

When Samsung transformed from a cheap consumer electronics company to a high-end retailer, it required every employee to think differently about customers, suppliers, distributors, management and themselves.

In both cases, there was nothing to fix in the organization or country. There was a vision that included everyone. At the same time, leadership has to create policies that reward people for contributing to the vision. This could be in the form of public recognition, training, and development, listening to input and implementing where appropriate, providing resources, and knowing when to get out of the way and allowing staff and management to figure things out on their own.

Let Your People Test their Boundaries

Too often, companies want to change the corporate culture because the organization is operating inefficiently. In most companies, the status quo holds its position. Instead, create a project that stretches people beyond the normal everyday way of thinking and acting.

At the same time, the project has to have a perpetual life. If it doesn’t, it will be a one-hit wonder. As soon as the initiative is complete, the culture will go back to the old ways. Therefore, the first project should open the door to new, more exciting projects, like Apple’s iPad opened the door to the iPhone, iPad and more.

Lead with Great Intention

More importantly, leadership cannot abandon the project at the first sign of trouble or difficulty. As employees solve new and complex challenges, they grow and develop new skills and competencies.

In addition, it will force them to depend on one another, especially other departments or business units. After the problem is solved, people will be smarter and have a bond that could not have existed before the difficult initiative.

With that kind of culture, leadership will be empowered to look beyond the horizon to see what new problems can be solved for customers. And that is just one way to build a thriving enterprise.


  • Ted Santos

    Mr. Ted Santos is skilled at reinventing companies and individuals. Over the past 25 years, he has reinvented himself several times. From sales trainer, executive manager, entrepreneur, executive coach to currently Chairman of an organization that provides high-value services to CEOs of midsize to large corporations, Mr. Santos is experienced with change. As Chairman of the Board of Veteran CEOs, Mr. Santos is responsible for developing strategic direction. He also recruits former CEOs of Fortune 1000s to lead roundtable discussions to provide guidance and mentorship to sitting CEOs of mid-cap companies. In addition, he offers direction to scale BoV's value proposition beyond NYC and into major cities throughout the US. BoV has expanded its offering to middle market CEOs by creating innovative platforms designed to educate and develop CEOs in a confidential environment with peers. Mr. Santos is a native of New Jersey and attended Howard University as a marketing major. Santos Ted