Yes--in fact, it's essential. Gijs van Wulfen wrote a good piece that I saw on LinkedIn this morning. He begins:
"Without tradition no innovation. Without innovation no tradition". This saying popped into my mind reflecting on my first visit to Moscow last week, where I lectured at the Strelka Institute on 'The Innovation Expedition', because it is published in Russian this September. Moscow is awesome. This picture I took, reflects how traditional Russian lifestyle blends with modern trendy Moscow. And I remembered there from my early working days how you could blend historical breakthroughs of your company in your innovation activities today.
"Often tradition is depicted as the enemy of innovation and vice versa".
All companies once started small and innovative. As companies grow older though, they tend to become more risk-averse. Once their markets saturate and revenue growth stops they reach a state of equilibrium. Entrepreneurs leave and managers come in. Seeking processes and policies to reduce risk and maintain the equilibrium companies become bureaucracies. All the processes and policies in place become impediments to innovation. This is not an immediate problem, until the rate of change outside is drastically more than the rate of change inside. Then 'a big old tanker' will realize it has to innovate. As innovation facilitator I learned that:
"Challenging tradition with respect increases the acceptance of innovation. Violating it leads to resistance."
Gijs goes on to explore specific ways in which a respect for tradition can lead to healthy innovation, and a lack of it can be disastrous. His experiences reflect my own, first as an employee in a large private foundation and now as a consultant working with organizations that have established practices and cultures. Positive change should only in the worst of circumstances involve completely discarding what already exists; rather, it starts with valuing the good that's already there, sustaining (or re-birthing!) buy-in for it, and building on it. Gijs goes into more specifics.