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Silicon Valley doesn’t always know best

June 3, 2014

After spending decades working to help many different types of companies navigate through change and transition, I was not surprised by Michael L. Tushman’s recent hbr.org blog post titled “Why Silicon Valley Rules Don’t Work for So Many Older Companies.”

“We all have a lot to learn from the new generation of companies that have come out of the Silicon Valley revolution,” he writes. “Many of these entrepreneurial lessons have been codified in books, the new bibles for innovation — not just for entrepreneurs but also for managers looking to create new and innovative innovation businesses inside existing corporations. Companies that want to shake themselves out of their routines and generate innovation from inside take the Silicon Valley cookbook and start adding recipes from it to their own.

“But it doesn’t always work… established leadership practices, corporate cultures and identities, and organizational structures are far bigger obstacles to successful innovation than whether or not you can train a small and talented group to identify and prove market traction of a minimum viable offering.”

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Just because Silicon Valley is almost synonymous with disruptive and explosive growth, doesn’t mean that all companies can (or should) be run like a Silicon Valley start-up. And Tushman’s story is yet another example of “culture-eating strategy” every time.

The reality is that deeply embedded cultural practices are hard to move and will beat down innovation and change efforts as a body might reject a transplanted organ. True change and innovation can only occur when organizational leaders buy into the objectives of the change, communicate their support, and coach others in the organization to do the same. The Silicon Valley way may be “sexy” and different, but when it comes to change and transition, there’s simply no substitute for good leadership.

So let’s hear it. Is change being rejected like a transplanted organ where you work? 

Nash_MitchellMitchell is Vice President, Consultant Services, and leader of Linkage’s Change and Transition Leadership practice. He has over 20 years of experience leading, facilitating, and supporting large-scale change initiatives. Connect with Mitchell on LinkedIn.

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