The 3 C’s of Growth Leadership: Culture, Capabilities, and Configuration

George S. Day’s new book Innovation Prowess: Leadership Strategies for Accelerating Growth is an essential guide to building a framework for superior growth through innovation. This article offers a preview on how to boost your innovation ability by adhering to the three big C’s: Culture, Capabilities and Configuration.


The 3M Company has long been recognised as a bastion of innovation prowess, and it continually outperforms other diversified industrials. At the heart is a culture that believes in customer-inspired innovation and an organisation designed to listen to customers and act on their feedback. While 3M is well known for providing time for engineers to pursue new ideas and experiment, the capacity for idea sharing and joint learning is just as important. 3M also converts a high volume of ideas into growth initiatives by providing multiple sources of funding, such as Genesis grants to fund experiments.

Growth leaders like 3M, Diageo,, Celgene, and LEGO see opportunities sooner, bring more and better initiatives successfully to market, and improve innovation productivity by orchestrating the three entwined elements of innovation ability:

Culture. An organisation’s shared values and beliefs, defining appropriate and inappropriate behaviours. It is often summed up simply as “the way we do things around here.”
Capabilities. The combination of skills, technology, and knowledge that allows the firm to execute specific activities and innovation processes.
Configuration. The structure of the organisation, including how resources are allocated, who bears responsibility for achieving targets, and how success is measured.

Efforts to build new innovation capabilities or improve the firm’s configuration will succeed when they are supported by the appropriate cultural attributes. Conversely, a dysfunctional culture is hard to surmount. The poster child is Sony, who missed both the iPod and the smartphone revolution. As Howard Stringer, the current CEO of Sony, who was brought in as an outsider and charged with changing the company’s culture, wryly noted, “Love affairs with status quo continue even after the quo has lost its status.”

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