The Second Element - Organisational Structure and Systems 

What about the organisational walls and ceilings that allocate people to departments, divisions, grades and professions? Do they constrain the way that people work together, creating separate silos that put barriers in the way of doing a good job? Or is there a sense of openness and expectation that lets the fire of innovation and improvement create heat and light throughout the organisation? 

Innovative organisations are those that ignite common understanding and purpose for everyone, letting each person share what they know so that they can deliver a better product and a more seamless approach to the customer. When you join two candle flames together you get a much greater flame than the sum of just two. Sharing understanding between people without boundaries creates an unstoppable and beneficial wildfire which, of course, spreads.

Of course some demarcations may be necessary, reflecting different bodies of expertise and knowledge. But this shouldn’t lead to fragmentation: different groups within an organisation should intertwine naturally in ways that share the richness around them, helping everyone understand other people’s jobs, professions, specialisms, priorities, problems and vision. 

For example Innocent is an innovative UK company that produces smoothies, juices and  vegetable pots sold in supermarkets, coffee shops and other outlets. Its success depends on a culture that values creativity, openness and the sharing of ideas at every level. Fruit Towers, the HQ in London, is spread over four open-plan floors but seating for everyone including senior management is allocated randomly. That way, everyone gets maximum visibility and interacts with people from different functions. They get a broader understanding of different roles and how Innocent works as a whole. 

Read the Innocent case study here

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in healthcare. Patients with complex or long-term conditions achieve better clinical outcomes and quality of life when they are treated by multidisciplinary teams that transcend professional and departmental boundaries, rather than by separate specialists who only communicate with each other by means of the patient’s medical record (for an illustration click here ). 

And are the systems and procedures that govern decision-making, resource allocation and standard operating procedures aligned with empowerment and trust? Or do they reflect a culture of centralised control and micro-management? Truly innovative workplaces recognise the need for a consistent approach to empowerment running through every aspect of corporate policy from reward systems and performance appraisal to flexible working and budget devolution. 

An intriguing example is that of Finext, a Dutch financial consulting company without bosses or organisational divisions and one with few formal systems. Teams and collective decisions emerge through informal interaction and dialogue. You can read an article and see a short video in which founder Fokke Wijnstra explains Finext’s way of working. 

Organisational Structures and Systems
Themes - coming soon
Case studies - coming soon
Articles - coming soon

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