I just heard Dennis Crowley of Foursquare describe how their culture came about, in a 30 second answer to an interview question, and basically, what he recounts was that it started informally, with people being able to contribute whenever they wanted, and the all-inclusive nature of the process gave that extra sense of involvement. Even if I didn’t know what the company does, I’d guess just from that that the culture there is predicated on innovation and thinking outside the box.
I’m reminded of the contrary example, a brief interaction about a week ago, at dance rehearsal, where a rather complicated move was being put into place, and there was some synchronization discussion regarding the men’s moves. A lady suggested something, very briefly, and the answer of the dance team leader was: we’ll let the men speak on men’s moves, and you can pitch in when women’s patterns are discussed. Frankly, that’s very counter productive. Just because somebody does not do/implement something does not mean that they can’t have a worthwhile contribution. They will benefit or use or sell the outcome of most processes, and if you reduce people to parrots in a cage, giving them only the freedom of contributing in their confines, you are stifling innovation and often missing the bird’s eye view that the directly involved people can’t have, because of their proximity to the issue.
And that’s how you end up, for example, with ERPs that the IT loves, and that don’t provide the utilities and information that marketing, for example, needs. And that’s only one type of failure.