Originally published in hrlook.com

Inspiration and Innovation:
It's Culture Based

By Lorraine Weygman

As the result of an overlooked error, he accidentally created a new product which made his company many millions of profit dollars. So goes the story of another "aha" and the success of Post-It Notes. What was there about the workplace culture and leadership style that allowed risk taking and innovation, celebrated a mistake and created a hero?

Nowadays, the race is on to keep pace or be slightly ahead of the competition. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is one definition of insanity. Yet some people just never give up and strenuously resist change and the thought of innovation, much less, the deed. Innovation and service to internal and external customers are today's key to success!

Each individual has something to contribute to their workplace - ideas, experience, skills, creativity, initiative and individual talents. They bring their values, beliefs, priorities, self-esteem, fears and self-discipline in order to contribute their best. As a result, the company makes more product, delivers high quality service and makes a growing profit.

 Illness and staff turnover can be rampant. Where is the joy of coming to work and spending the day there? Where is the enthusiasm, commitment and inspired workplace? Too many people leave the most valuable part of themselves at the door before they enter the workplace, preferring to safely behave like robots rather than risk criticism and the possibility of losing their job. How and when does a workplace turn this around?

Leadership style, values, attitudes, priorities and beliefs are the telling signs of results and success. "Inspiring leaders create inspired cultures. Inspired cultures create inspired workplaces. Inspired workplaces create prosperity." These are the measurable results of a one year study, "The Best of the Best , research on Canada's Award Winning Companies" by Myrna Ain and Associates, presented to the Conference Board of Canada.

The authors reported on nearly 60 leaders and their acclaimed organizations on the relationship of leadership and culture to performance and prosperity. They administered an Organizational Culture Inventory that creates a measurable circumplex describing three types of leadership - Constructive, Passive/Defensive and Aggressive/Defensive.

During an interview, Myrna Ain summarily illustrated the differences as, " taking charge, taking orders or can't keep up, the latter resulting in frequent turnover, apathy, absenteeism, stress, burnout and fear."

Which of the following leadership styles mainly describes your workplace culture? Each of these three styles of leadership encourages the following behaviour:

Constructive Style

  • Achievement - focus on excellence; self starters
  • Self-actualization
  • Encouraged to be innovative problem solvers and resolve conflict constructively
  • Affiliation - work together to produce high quality products and services
  • Accept individual accountability


  • Set goals to please others
  • Avoid conflict and switch priorities
  • Dependence - avoid making decisions, reactive
  • Conventional, conforming, treating rules more seriously than people or ideas
  • Need for approval by following orders even when wrong; not self starters

Aggressive/Defensive Style

  • Oppositional, focus on mistakes; highly critical or others and new ideas
  • Believe in force and power with little confidence in others
  • Competitive, secretive, arrogant
  • Perfectionistic, causing "analysis paralysis" , micro-management and self-induced stress

Constructive, inspired workplaces result in creative, healthy and productive staff with low turnover, high achievement, creativity and success. People are there because they want to be there. Staff feel secure in expressing and taking risks. To this type of environment, people readily contribute their skills, knowledge, experience and talents. They also bring their enthusiasm, their commitment to communicating and working with others.

They collaborate because there is more than a feeling of trust - it's a fact. Respect for the individual leads to an encouraged team within which people can express themselves without fear of reprisal. This leads to innovation - taking risks and knowing the executive team and the culture are supportive.

The amount of inspiration and innovation are a result of their workplace culture. Everyone is creative - it's a right brain process... The "aha" that has happened globally through the centuries is always available to everyone - given an opportunity and the interest.

Problems can be solved with illustrations and words - oral and written - individually and/or in collaboration with others who work toward a common purpose.

Innovation - the creative act of one or many, can only thrive in a well nourished environment, just as the healthiest plants thrive in moist, rich soil. So be it with innovation, employees and their organizations.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a familiar phrase. Have you heard Tom Peters' challenge, "If it ain't broke... break it"? He strongly suggests taking a hard look at how companies run their businesses and how they encourage or discourage leadership to take up the challenges of change. Peer into your current operating culture and note the impact of your leadership team on culture. What's the difference between the ideal culture and reality? Change can be stimulated by the gap because the measure is on the side of reality and the need becomes very clear to all.

Since inspiration and innovation occur mainly in a trusting, encouraging and well organized environment, the results speak for themselves, as a particular multinational corporation can attest. The impact of their culture change process during a three year period on financial performance showed significant gains between 600% - 900% rise in revenue, stock price and net income. You, too, can do that!

Take a look at your current operating culture, the impact of your leadership team has on that culture. Consider the alternatives employees have in order to make innovation possible. As Myrna Ain asserted, "Being nourished, you flourish". How does your workplace nourish, encourage, lead, innovate and create change? Whether you do or you don't, it's a decision worth evaluating. If you think it "ain't broke", maybe now is the time to "break it"!

Lorraine has over 25 years of international experience as an accomplished motivational speaker, consultant, writer, facilitator and radio host. She has been featured on radio and television and in numerous magazines and newspapers in North and South America, Britain and Russia. For more information about Lorraine, visit http://www.weygman.com

This article may be copied as long as it's kept whole and Lorraine's bio is kept with the article, including the live link to her website.

"Congratulations on a very well presented educational and entertaining seminar. I am sure you could feel the warm response you were getting from the audience.  It is unusual to get this kind of reaction from a group who don’t even speak English.

"I know some of the ideas and tools you presented to them will have a bearing on how well they accomplish their task as Chinese Human Resource executives in the process of evolving China’s giant economy.  Thanks again for a superb job."

Al Westaway, Partner
America-Asian & Associates Corp.


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