Where in your business or your team are you willing to bend the rules?

Would you be willing to tolerate a sale where the margins were below your team’s KPIs, just in order to get the revenue from the sale?

And would you punish a different team member if they wanted to use those same low margins in the future?

This shows the gap between what you expect, according to your strategy, and what you tolerate.

And the size of this tolerance gap will be affected by your culture.

One of the most famous examples of an organisational culture with little or no tolerance gap is the military, where people are trained to follow command and any breaches may result in expulsion, due to the inherent danger of the role.

I have also worked at companies where the tolerance gap is very small. At an Oil & Gas client, their rules around Health and Safety were strictly enforced and no leeway was allowed. This was so enforced that people were encouraged to call out people who were not holding the handrail when using stairs, since this was the rule.

It would seem therefore that these companies where no gap against the expectations is tolerated are inflexible, and surely this would result in them being less innovative.

Should more innovative companies therefore tolerate a larger gap, with lower specific expectations and rules, with more leeway to try things differently.

Perhaps.

For certain aspects where tolerance can lead to creative solutions, such as in design and testing of innovation hypotheses, this could be helpful.

However, the danger is not to create a culture where people feel that anything will be tolerated.

Many highly creative and innovative places to work have in recent years exposed internal cultures where even though it was against the company policy and strategy, terrible behaviour was tolerated, like rampant sexual harassment at Uber, Ubisoft and Activision, dishonesty at Theranos and outright fraud at Wirecard.

In many cases, these tolerances existed because the leadership team took no action when they found out about the issues. Or even worse, they were the ones committing the issues, resulting in a culture where the role models were showing the company what would not be reported (and therefore, tolerated).

It is up to the leaders in a company to set an example of what will be tolerated, and what will not be.

This is one of the fundamental pillars of the company culture.

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.