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Shifting Cultural Gears in Technology-Driven Industries

Ongoing innovation is essential for the enduring success of any company in a competitive industry. Innovation comes in two basic flavors: product innovation and business innovation (that is, process and marketing innovation). In technology-driven industries, the primary source of customer value shifts over time from the first to the second as technologies mature and the customer base becomes more mainstream.

If technology-driven companies are to make the necessary shift to business innovation, they cannot avoid significant changes in company culture. Waiting until crisis strikes is dangerous. But many leaders avoid addressing cultural challenges early enough because they are uncomfortable with the invisible, difficult-to-measure nature of culture and its stubborn resistance to quick fixes.

Early high-tech leaders must inevitably evolve their underlying cultural bias as the driving technology in their industry moves through the creation, transition and commoditization stages of development. Cultural change often requires managers to be jolted out of their comfortable grooves by a disaster. Premeditated change is preferable, but it takes courage and foresight. For the courageous manager, the author outlines ways to proactively guide the development of a company’s culture from one best suited for early entrepreneurship to one capable of enduring industry leadership.

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