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Let’s talk about CULTURE! How do we create organizational culture conducive to innovation?

Nov 17, 2020 @ 2:30 pm - 5:30 pm UTC+1

Hosted conversational space to discuss how we can create organizational culture conducive to innovation in large, hierarchic organizations.

About this Event

Governments adapted quickly to the Covid crisis, some with more success and more innovations in partnering with stakeholders, in tailor-making decision-making processes and in delivering products and services badly needed in record times. How we transpose the lessons learnt from this period into our everyday work in government administrations and build an organizational culture conducive to innovation beyond the crisis operations is the focus of attention of this conversation.

Organizational culture is a key element in any successful transformation. Yet, we talk less about it in the absence of fail-safe recipes on what actually works in large, hierarchical organizations. You might have heard the saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”… even the most advanced, ahead-of-their-time strategies fail if not supported by consciously orchestrated culture change processes to create lasting impacts in the organization.

This session intends to connect professionals around the world who work towards shifting the organizational culture or are simply interested in exploring ways of doing that with other like-minded peers in large, hierarchical organizations, whether in the public or the private sector. We are offering a hosted space for participants to share their ideas being tried and tested, and the insights from their experiences with the group gathering at this occasion. This will be a purely participatory, co-creative conversational space where participants will co-define the conversations they want and need to have with peers in this mutual learning event, sharing their insights and harvesting lessons learnt (i.e. Open Space social technology). This is not a speaker-driven event.

Join us for this exploration in conversation with like-minded professionals!The event will be facilitated by a team of change agents working in the European public service.

Please register to receive Zoom connection details.

Event reflections

Summary of the event

Organizational culture is a key element in any successful transformation. Yet, in the absence of fail-safe recipes on what actually works in large, hierarchical organizations, we tend to talk less about it. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” rings true when the implementation of strategies is not supported by consciously orchestrated culture change processes to create lasting impacts in the organization. Participants joined the session to raise questions they consider important to discuss with like-minded professionals (not speaker-driven), sharing ideas and insights with one another around organizational culture change.

With the choice of method (i.e. Open Space social technology), the session wanted to demonstrate the following:

  • How change agents at the European Commission use participatory leadership methods
    (www.artofhosting.org) to shift the organizational culture by hosting, harvesting and following up on conversations that matter
  • How the Open Space social technology (selected method for conversation for this session) serves empowerment of personnel [through e.g. participant-driven agenda setting; self-organization; awakening the inquisitive mind, encouraging contribution and agency or ownership for issues participants care or feel passionate about; sharing ideas and knowledge with peers across boundaries (diversity)], supports thinking out-of-the-box and stimulates innovation by connecting the dots and building on collective intelligence in a hierarchical and top-down managed institutional context.
  • How intentional process design can shift organizational culture over time (e.g. series of conversations, iterations) by building social capital and impacting individual change in the organization.

Participants shared experiences and insights on transforming public institutions into conscious
organizations, creating safe spaces for innovation, how to measure culture change over time and how to drive organizational change processes bottom-up.

What was the most powerful idea, insight or realisation that came out of the event?

We realised how powerful introducing new ways of talking to and working with one another in safe
conversational spaces (www.artofhosting.org ) can be for the transformation of mind-set and
organizational culture over time.

We understood the importance of co-creating local solutions to our own challenges inside the organisation with the employees, and how important it is to “take staff with us” on the “journey to change” instead of forcing them into changes they were not part of creating. External expertise might be useful on board when it complements (does not replace) our internal efforts to define our own solutions (process consulting). One change agent is already a good start. One can start small, with what one has (set of techniques for hosting conversations), wherever one is in the organization, keep building the new normal relentlessly, and the necessary alliances with like-minded change agents to reach many others across the organization, one step at a time. One needs to get inspiration from how movements are initiated and start spreading the new. We learnt that measuring organizational culture is possible [based on values and how they manifest in our context i.e. e.g. Barrett Analytics, through stories and narratives i.e. Cognitive Edge). Staff members are the best to tell what works well and what needs to change for them to thrive in the organization. Staff surveys, especially those with dramatically bad results, could create momentum for change in the organization. “Think small first.” is good advice. Once a few important changes have taken root in our organization, we can go deeper to avoid “change fatigue”. Organizational framework conditions (e.g. collaboration across
silos, certain processes and procedures to make decisions, certain structures/functions that support
organizational change, performance assessment, conscious leadership, etc.) do need to change if we want lasting impacts on the organizational culture over time.

What do we collectively need to keep talking about?

Organisational culture conducive to innovation is an important subject: related organizational framework conditions, building learning and networked organizations. Sharing experiences and ideas in an international setting is invaluable support to change agents embedded in their national context to get inspiration and support.

Reflecting back on the event, what key insights or conclusions can be shared about what should be “left behind” beyond the crisis? (ex. What has proven to no longer fit in the current context?)

Strictly hierarchical, bureaucratic organisations are the past. They were created to keep public policy and spending in control and efficiently managed, and they served this purpose well. Now the role and related activities of government is shifting from commander to convener of ecosystem players to bring about systemic transformations. The organisational culture and framework conditions need to reflect this shift as well.

Reflecting back on the event, what key insights or conclusions can be shared about what should be “kept” beyond the crisis? (ex. What has proven to be important, what were things introduced in crisis response that should be kept after?)

Fast and efficient decision making is key. People rely on governments’ leading the way out of crisis very much. People’s trust in government or at least the acknowledgment that government is an important player in the economy got reinforced during the crisis.

Reflecting back on the event, what key insights or conclusions can be shared about what collectively we should “do differently” beyond the crisis?

Government should think in systems and play the role of convener of the innovation ecosystem players to bring about systemic transformations badly needed in order to face the grand challenges today. When this role is assumed, the rest will change: organisational framework conditions and culture as well.



Nov 17, 2020
2:30 pm - 5:30 pm UTC+1
Event Category:


European Commission
View Organiser Website