Self Awareness Is Innovation

From our March 2019 Newsletter —subscribe here.

We know that vulnerability is the cornerstone of courage building. But what we often fail to realize is that without vulnerability there is no creativity or innovation. Why? Because there is nothing more uncertain than the creative process. And there is absolutely no innovation without failure. Show me a culture in which vulnerability is framed as weakness, and I’ll show you a culture struggling to come up with fresh ideas and new perspectives.
-Brené Brown, Dare To Lead

To us this says it all: “Show me a culture in which vulnerability is framed as weakness, and I’ll show you a culture struggling to come up with fresh ideas and new perspectives.”

From our direct experience, there is nothing more uncertain than the creative process and there is no innovation without failure. Companies today are building backward. The early-stage ecosystem has developed in a way where young founders are expected to first build something users want, fast, and focus on people, culture, and leadership second. This makes linear sense and we completely understand the high importance of product-market fit. There’s no company without product. The problem is that culture isn’t linear, it’s created everyday. And the number one reason companies fail to become valuable isn’t product-market fit or lack of good ideas — it’s founder and team conflict.

Company culture is what we do everyday at work. Today we’re treating product as step one and culture as step two. That’s simply incorrect. Calling it incorrect sounds bold doesn’t it? Good. Because it’s wrong. Culture cannot be step two, because culture is the way you go about finding customers and building products to solve their problems. For example: if your team views their six month cash runway as life or death, you’re building a fear-based culture. The same way you’re building a culture of rudeness if it’s okay for people to interrupt during meetings, and the same way your company won’t value time if it’s alright for senior people to arrive five minutes late to meetings.

I started The New Company because I don’t believe innovation and culture are at odds. In fact they are one in the same. In order to create the next generation of great organizations where people love working, we have to rethink our definition of innovation. It starts with leadership and taking responsibility for the environments we create.

You don’t need us to recommend one of a thousand books on building a company. Though we might recommend a few along the way, here’s what none of the books will tell you: learning a process — design sprint, AOR, Agile — is not what drives success. We like to think of these processes like the “apps” of your company culture — the places where people communicate. Healthy culture takes building a robust operating system for the apps to plug into. The “OS” of your company are its people — how they show up to work and what they communicate. The real work starts at the source code: why people show up.