Creating a Culture of Innovation

Les Edwards3 Comments


Halifax, Nova Scotia

A few months ago, I read a fascinating article in Forbes magazine about a culture change being pursued by the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. City leaders strongly believe their economic future depends on innovation and entrepreneurship, not traditional initiatives like offering tax incentives or funding infrastructure projects. They know they need a new and bolder approach – something that gets to the heart of changing the city’s culture.

I was intrigued by how a city or organization would go about changing a culture of pessimism and competitiveness to one that emphasizes innovation (creating the new) versus production (optimizing the old). The article talked about the need for a control-alt-delete reboot of the community’s human operating system. This can happen by rewriting the social contract so people thrive collaboratively through shared behaviors. The Greater Halifax Partnership has labeled this “The Bold Promise,” where people commit to being part of a movement toward a better Halifax; one that is open to new people, new ideas, and a new economy.

I was also struck by the behaviors Halifax wants its citizens to commit to: 1) be positive, 2) challenge pessimism, 3) trust and be trusted, 4) collaborate, 5) pay it forward, and 6) celebrate success. To me, these are good goals for any community or organization that wants to change its culture, because they inspire new behaviors. And history has shown that culture change occurs only when collective behavior changes.

The Halifax article came back to me this week when we announced some internal organization changes at Rain CII and Rütgers. We are continuing to integrate our companies and make changes that position us as a strong global leader in the carbon and chemicals sectors. Like Halifax, we know our future depends on innovation, collaboration, and an enthusiasm for change. We’re working hard to further embed these behaviors into our culture. There’s a reason the leaders of Halifax are taking a bold new approach to ensure their future success. We agree wholeheartedly.

What sort of culture-changing experience have you been a part of? Let us know about it in the conversation field, below.

3 Comments on “Creating a Culture of Innovation”

    1. Peter Wagner

      Those are nice, aren’t they, Marc? It seems to me that it’s easy to lose sight of the basic elements of decency, kindness, and collegiality — and the people in Halifax have done a good job articulating what they believe will make them a stronger community. I wonder what sorts of things business organizations around the world have used to describe the actions and behaviors they most want to see from their employees?

  1. Les Edwards

    Thanks Marc. Alouette is a good example of a company that has a strong culture of innovation. My take is that this is due partly to your independent management team and strong desire to be an industry leader and low cost producer but also, to your geographical isolation. It is not so easy to call in outside help when people have to travel all the way to Sept Iles! You set the industry benchmark for low energy consumption with your AP3X cells and your newly developed AP40LE cells. It was also great to see Alouette and UQAC win the Light Metals Best paper award in the Reduction Technology sessions at this years TMS meeting. You can probably teach us all a thing or two about embedding a culture of innovation!

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