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Four Reasons to Create Your Culture and Build Innovative Teams

There has never been a more important time to clarify your business culture and build innovative teams.

In the current “digital era” change is rapid and continuing to accelerate. Millenials (those 18 – 35 yo) are gradually becoming the largest percentage of the workforce and we are experiencing a growing IT skills shortage.

To navigate these changes effectively, businesses need to know who they are (culture), and be flexible enough to adapt rapidly (innovative teams). 

This blog explores ideas and concepts primarily developed by Simon Sinek, an adjunct staff member of the RAND Corporation Global Think Tank, bestselling author and business commentator. Inspiration is also drawn from the "Building Diverse & Innovative Teams" talk given by Kevin Angland, the CIO of IAG, at the 2015 CIO Conference in Auckland.

Who’s Creating Your Culture?

Do you know your company’s culture?
Do you know why your company exists?
Could all your staff from the top to the bottom clearly communicate what it is?

Whether you like it or not, your business has a culture. It will be proactively created by the leaders or it will be created at random by the environment, systems and staff you employ (99% of the time this approach will not be what you want).

Why Culture is Important: Four Key Reasons

Your business culture will actively drive the success or failure of your business because:

1. ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’- Peter Drucker.

No matter the amount of time you spend at the board room table planning strategy, it will be overridden if your culture is going in a different direction. Your culture and strategy need to be aligned for effective results.

2. Culture is a key reason people want to work with you and stay with you.

The ability to do meaningful work, have an active role in business improvement, work when and where they want, and professional development are key employee motivators. In many cases, especially for Millenials, they outstrip money in importance.

3. Culture will play a fundamental role in your businesses ability to change & grow.

Unless your culture embraces change and innovation, mindsets will get in the way when change is needed. Nimble, adaptive, forward thinking minds are what’s needed to succeed in todays evolving environment.

4. Culture is the breeding ground for innovation.

Rather than innovation being something that you ‘do’ it should be something that is ‘allowed and encouraged to happen.’ Instead of being switched on and switched off, it should form part of the organisations DNA. Often innovation is created from the bottom up rather than the top down.

How to Create a Great Culture and Innovative Teams

Culture creation is a leadership responsibility and must be intentional. It is not about actively being involved in everything, but rather about creating the right environment and expectations in which it can happen.

Six Things As a Leader You Need To Do: 


1. Know your why.

‘Why’ is at the heart of great culture because it creates energy and motivation.

In Simon Sinek's TED talk ‘How great leaders inspire action’ he outlines the incredible power of knowing your why, before the how and what.

Most organisations work from the outside in, focussing on ‘what’ they do, and ‘how’ they do it without really understanding ‘why’ they do it. Sinek points out that the why can’t be to make a profit. Profit's a result, and will always be a result, of providing something of value.

Spending the time to work out the ‘why’ will lead to greater clarity, innovation & customer engagement.

2. Build the right team over the best team

It’s important to have people that are as capable as possible, but they must be aligned to the overall goal. The All Blacks may be the best team in New Zealand, but they’re probably not the right team for sailing in the America’s cup.

3. Build a complementary team

You don’t need to have all the answers. Allow diversity to flourish and don’t give in to the temptation of only having people on board that reflect your personality.

4. Rally your team around the ‘why’ and empower them

When the right team is brought together and empowered around a common and inspiring ‘why’, incredible things can happen. There is less need for hierarchy, and less need for rules. The clear ‘why’ creates an end goal that can be used to evaluate decision making.

Teams can be empowered by establishing the systems, technology and access to people required to move things forward. Collaboration and self-organisation then becomes possible.

5. Make it safe

Simon Sinek’s TED talk ‘Why good leaders make you feel safe’ explores how people do their best work when there is a climate of trust. It’s hard to create a culture of collaboration and innovation when there is a fear that if there is a mistake, heads will roll.

Sinek makes the example that in the military, leaders eat last and no man is left behind. In business, profits are often made at the expense of people and the leaders are often served rather than looking to serve.

6. Get involved but only where you need to

Set clear expectations and only get involved when needed. Don’t micro-manage. Micro managing is based on a lack of faith and trust in other people and it kills both collaboration and innovation.

Micro managers limit individuals ability to develop and grow and also what the entire team can achieve, because everything has to go through them. Learn how to empower rather than stifle and your team will thank you.

Now Is The Time


Creating culture and innovative teams is something that no business can ignore.


To Summarise and Get You Started:

  1. Create a clear WHY
  2. Ensure you have the RIGHT people
  3. Facilitate COLLABORATION
  4. Build a climate of TRUST
  5. LET it happen
  6. GET INVOLVED only where you need to


Greg Burgoyne (LLB, BCom) is an Associate Consultant of Peritia, passionate about seeing people empowered through technology.

Connect on Twitter: @gregburgoynenz