Friday, March 02, 2007

What Makes an Organization Innovative?

In an earlier post I discussed how an organization's learning style could affect its ability to innovate. In stepping back a bit, I decided to read a bit more on the characteristics of an innovative organization (with learning style being one of them). There is certainly no shortage of theorist in this area of study including the likes of Tom Peters.

There are many common attributes regardless of the theory one aligns with:


Leadership sets the tone for everything that a library does. While a library director may be the most visible leader, most library organizations have some sort of leadership team. Participative, visionary and transformational leadership seems to be the most identified with organizational innovation. Different leadership styles are also required for different innovations as well as during the various stages of the innovation process. Innovative organizations would also seem to have a higher number of change agents and idea champions. While they may not be leaders in the hierarchical sense, they are extremely important leaders in gaining staff buy-in and moving ideas ahead.

Organizational Structure, Climate, and Culture

There are many different prescriptions for how an organization should be structured for innovation. Common themes include flat structures, project-based work teams, and lateral communication which are all characteristics of Burns and Stalker's "organic" structure theory. Idea ownership and the sense of autonomy over one's work are also common characteristics. A climate and culture that has favorable conditions will generally be open to change, willing to take risks, tolerant of debate and disagreement, playful, stresses flexibility, adaptability, and individual and group achievement.

I will be discussing many of these characteristics on a panel session at the 13th National ACRL Conference (Baltimore March 29 - April 1) that will be discussing innovation in libraries along with Nancy Davenport and Jim Robertson. Sphere: Related Content

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