The Cynical Organisation

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Reading about some of the tumultuous change going on right now in some of world’s biggest tech businesses, one can’t help but feel for the workers caught at the sharp end, trying to make sense of the latest senior management missive or strategy. Missives that often talk about the need for accelerated innovation and a culture of experimentation.

And yet, what’s the biggest killer of experimentation? Cynicism. What causes cynicism? Lack of belief, frustration, blame, fear. It so easily happens.

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In Change By Design, Tim Brown of IDEO talks about how curiousity does not survive in organisations that have grown cynical. How ideas get smothered, risk-takers driven-out, projects with uncertain outcomes avoided: “even when leadership wants to promote disruptive innovation and open-ended experimentation, it will find that no-one is willing to step forward without permission – which usually means defeat before the start.” 

He’s so right. Compare that those organisations that seem to be so accomplished at creating and maintaining positive momentum, who adeptly manage the challenge of competing internal priorities, who are able to marshall people around a powerful vision and inclusive working practices.

As Tim Brown says, when we talk about creating a culture of experimentation, perhaps we don’t talk enough about creating it’s essential counterpart – a climate of optimism.

Image 1 by: ben matthews

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