Dr SCHAEFERS Jos, Arthusa

“Innovation means change.

Change doesn’t necessarily mean innovation.

A change achieves an innovation if it results in a measurable improvement”


Beliefs are certitudes, individually or collectively perceived as self-evident truths. Once upon a time, the earth was considered to be flat, and everybody (well, nearly) believed it. This belief was then broken, resulting in substantial pain and violence.

We all agree today to condemn what the   happened to Galileo. Honestly. What are we doing to today’s Galileans? How many times do we hear responses along the lines of: “Obvious, but not for us”?

Innovation has been the focus during the 2 last decades. So many words written about it, so many significations given to it, it eventually led to a lot of frustration.

Product and process innovation have been dominating in such a massive way that we totally forgot about governance and organization.

E. Y. Goldratt was someone who attacked universal beliefs in the domain of organization during the last two decades. “Whenever a truth or belief seems to be a hard rock, it must be broken in order to progress”, is a great summary of his philosophy.

He didn’t just l speak about it, he demonstrated it many times, practically.The results were   considerable improvements of performance. The good news is that this worked without any substantial investment or even cost. The bad news is that it doesn’t work without the pain of letting go of old beliefs.

But let’s not fool ourselves. Whenever we break a belief, we will create some pain. This leads us to a well-known notion, corporate culture.

Corporate Culture

Where is the difference between the aforementioned beliefs and corporate culture? In fact, a given company’s culture is nothing else than a way of thinking and believing, a subsequent way of behaving.

Over time each community tends to converge to certain way of living together. Once implemented, it develops and often becomes implicit, unconsciously accepted by everybody joining the community, a business in our case.

Each newcomer has to adapt to the existing culture, often leading to confusion or conflicts. Why does a given, unwritten rule exist? Nobody knows, included those who helped creating the culture. They created it with good intentions under a specific set of circumstances. There was certainly nothing malicious or problematic at that moment.

However, this culture remains an unquestioned norm, even if circumstances change.

Anachronisms survive even if things stop making sense out of context. Rules that fail to adapt even worse, are becoming impediments to progress and innovation. Whenever outdated beliefs are considered eternal and sacred, real problems ensue.

While certain approaches have been a source of creativity and solutions in the past the very same culture might become counterproductive in a changed situation. The environment, the economy, politics, globalization (as well as the winning and qualifying orders of markets) are making paradigm shifts necessary.

Today’s employers face a new generation of employees as well. This generation grew up with earphones and is often referred to as the Y-generation. They come in with fresh ideas and often find it difficult to integrate into existing cultures, cultures they fail to understand. There’s a different understanding of work and a novel desire for work-life balance to be considered.

This is a fundamental change, specially regarding loyalty. It’s up to us, today’s leaders, to tap into their talent, to help develop them. It’s up to us, to find out how to adapt to them and to remain attractive to the best of them.

But surely the Y-generation will face the same problem tomorrow, meaning in ten or more years, when they will replace us. Need to change? Certainly, always. Easy to change? Certainly, never?
An example for the conflicts originating from a culture based on an obsolete set of beliefs is easy to find.

Around 1900, the cost allocation system was created. 115 years later, we still use it .Its fundamental assumption is that costs are variable, but we know this is not true for a majority of costs nowadays. Although since the 1960s the fundamental assumption has been invalid, we stick to this obsolete system.

Thereby we are creating purely mathematical phantoms to haunt us. Important operational, even strategic decisions are based on this. If necessary, logical and long overdue changes are not made, this mainly goes to show how much change can take us out of our comfort zone.


Therefore it is quite important to appropriate methodological approaches, which could be able to disclose untapped potential. It is necessary to create a context in which the change is natural and leads to improvements. The company’s culture must remain focused on its employees. Even if this culture not fully applies to everybody, the way he or she would prefer, we have to overcome archaic, rigid structures.

We need flexibility, agility, and space for development of talents, thoughts, and initiatives. The human-based culture able to achieve high performance is above all, a question of coherence.

Coherence results from a process of making the obsolete conscious and undertaking a paradigm shift willingly. For coherence to exist we must also take various perspectives into account, including the customers, the shareholders and the employees of a given business


Innovation can’t be simply declared. Qualities naturally emerge if we achieve coherence and understand innovation as a process, rather than merely a label or an expert’s domain. Quality isn’t merely procedure and, procedure certainly isn’t quality.

There are countless negative and frustrating reports about experiences of quality as procedure. Money and time are wasted to create the appearance of quality. I would propose the following definition:

A company has achieved excellence in quality and is able to develop , when employees come to work with a smile”.

How could the Y-generation come to work with smile we, if demonstrate incoherence and offer obsolete hierarchical structures?

We like to speak about quality cost.

So in that case let’s try to answer how much it will cost to:

  • making our employees smile, give praise and recognize contributions
  • let go of outdated ideas
  • acknowledge others and their point of view, towards creating a common vision based on collective intelligence

Just try and collect waves of smile and performance! It is sufficient to diminish our leaders’ ego, to inverse the pyramid. Encourage leaders and managers to be of service to others rather than the opposite. Dare to recognize and develop talents, making use of everybody’s intelligence. This, to me, would represent a change in culture.

About quality cost: what did we do about quality? So much money, energy and time wasted. What are all these rules, procedures, and tons of paper for if all this, in the absence of commitment and a shared vision, does not produce a single smile.