Erica Pinsky



Culture, Creativity and the Bottom Line

The central theme of my book Road to Respect: Path to Profit is that building a strategic, values based culture is a business imperative in today's multi-cultural marketplace. So it came as no surprise to me that a study by international business consulting firm McKinsey & Co concluded that corporate culture is the key to achieve ongoing superior business performance.


The study found that cultural factors accounted for more than 70 percent of the obstacles that prevent a business from reaching its performance improvement goals. The significant cultural factors which inhibited organizational performance were management resistance to change, and a reluctance of employees to embrace innovation.1


Why is willingness to embrace change and innovation important?

When market conditions change, particularly when they change rapidly, businesses need to be ready to react and respond. In their groundbreaking study on the relationship between corporate culture and performance, Harvard business school professors James Heskett and John Kotter concluded that only those companies with responsive and adaptive cultures remain profitable over time.2 Ongoing profitability requires innovative employees that are eager to embrace change.

The relationship between innovation, culture and profitability is examined in a new book by Kimberly Davis entitled The Firefly Effect: Build Teams That Capture Creativity and Catapult Results. Ms. Davis argues that "innovation is the only ticket out of this recession. Companies that can churn out innovative ideas will be able to adapt to the new realities we face. Those that can't, won't."

How does one build a culture of innovation?
According to Ms. Davis, one critical factor is the ability of leaders "to create a safe and respectful environment where individual creativity can emerge to its fullest potential."

As I discuss in Road to Respect, to build a respectful environment leaders must foster relationships based on ongoing dialogue, both within teams and across hierarchical power lines. Genuine dialogue includes questioning, listening and giving feedback. It is about collaboration, empowerment and accountability.

In a respectful workplace, employees are not afraid to speak up, or to engage in constructive conflict. On the other hand, disrespectful behaviours like harassment and bullying produce fear based cultures. Fear causes a cone of silence to descend upon employees and is the kiss of death for both innovation and profitability. Staying silent is a cultural behaviour that affects a business's ability to survive a recession, according to research by U.S. training company VitalSmarts.

When employees are afraid to speak up, when they are afraid to give feedback and challenge the status quo, it is impossible for either creativity or innovation to flourish.

As Bob Dylan sang so many years ago, the times they are a-changin'. We are in a new business reality, one that demands a new business model, based on respect, empowerment and collaboration. Those businesses that don't adapt will, in the words of that famous song, sink like a stone.

Creating a respectful workplace culture will unleash a wealth of creativity and innovation within your employee group. It will attract the best and brightest to your business, and ensure superior ongoing performance and profitability. It is the ultimate win/win for business.

Why wait? Make today the day your business starts travelling on the Road to Respect: Path to Profit !

1 - "What's Your Corporate Culture," Ilya Leybovich, ThomasNet Industrial Newsroom, Industrial Market Trends, June 23, 2009
2  - Corporate Culture and Performance, John P. Kotter and James L. Heskett, The Free Press, Simon & Shuster, 1992
3 -"9 Ways to Ignite Innovation Inside Your Company... and Light Your Way Out of the Recession," RISMEDIA, July 15, 2009
4 -"Avoid These 'Bad Boss' Mistakes and Get Ready for Rebound," Beth Mirza, SHRM Online, April 27, 2009

"Erica Pinsky’s book, Road to Respect: Path to Profit approaches a range of difficult topics in an honest, direct and non-threatening manner. This book will stimulate readers to think about their own values and behaviours and to question those that are operating in their workplaces. Erica shares personal stories and best practices to clearly show why adopting respect as a core value is a requirement for any business interested in being designated as an Employer of Choice in our multi-cultural workplaces.  I highly recommend this book!"

Susan Rubin Mulder,

Principal - McKinsey & Company