Ultimate Guide To Leading Innovation
Every company needs to find ways to survive in an ever-changing economy. Businesses struggle to keep up with new technology and their customers want. It isn’t easy for any company to be innovative, and while management teams recognize change is the only way forward, most lack confidence in their team.
To survive in the business world, companies need strong leaders to help drive them forward. Without leadership, a company has no chance of success. However, few people understand the importance of leading innovation.
Why Is It Important?
Innovation is responsible for some of the biggest companies in the world. For example, Google and Microsoft are innovators and lead changes in the technology world. Every single idea is some form of innovation, but the best ideas give companies a stronghold within their industry.
Throughout history, innovation has defined how societies evolve. The Romans were master innovators, and their democracy shapes how we live and vote today. Romans built the roads we travel every day, which shows how innovative leaders can change the world.
If we didn’t have innovators, then how would we function as a society? It’s exactly the same for businesses, but on a smaller scale. Companies that focus on innovation have more chances of penetrating difficult markets and retaining their staff members.
The biggest part of leading innovation is having the skills to inspire others and promote change. When we think of great leaders, each of them possesses the following skills.
Leaders have to believe in themselves, or others won’t follow them. Confidence is the key to success, and it attracts team members. When we believe someone knows what they’re doing, we’re more likely to follow them.
Every leader has the opportunity to make a difference and the best leaders embrace this. Do you like helping others reach their full potential?
It’s easy for leaders to blame others when things go wrong, but it doesn’t help their reputation. Every leader must be able to take responsibility for their choices and sometimes carry the load for others.
Leaders must encourage others, but it’s important they have idea skills. It’s important that leaders work on their creativity and contribute ideas to the team. However, they should also inspire others to be creative.
The Steps of Leading Innovation
If you want to lead innovation, you need to think about how to do it properly. There are five main factors for you to take into consideration.
Innovation is a Group Activity
There can never be one person responsible for innovation because it takes a group to promote change. Every organization has a hierarchy, and each needs to take responsibility for promoting change. One person might have an idea, but implementing it takes a collaborative approach. For example, if the Romans built roads, but did one person take full responsibility? Perhaps there was an initial idea, then an analysis of how to implement it, followed by lower-level individuals building the roads. Innovators aren’t afraid to share ideas with others and they also listen to a range of theories and creative approaches. Leading innovation requires teamwork and an open mind.
Innovation Requires Planning
Just as innovation requires a collaborative approach, it also needs planning. Innovative leaders drive an idea forward and ensuring all team members know what their role is. One of the most significant factors of leading innovation is recognizing weaknesses and designing strategies to solve them.
Innovation Needs Talent
Large companies are full of talent, but, many people go unnoticed. Great leaders can recognize talent and work with others to discover their potential. Just because a team member is in an entry-level role, doesn’t mean they don’t have the skills and talent to implement an idea. Leaders should always keep their eyes open and understand how to evaluate peoples skill sets.
Innovation Needs Flexibility
People don’t all work in the same way. We all have different learning styles and ways of working. The most important thing for leaders to remember is that they need to remain flexible and accommodate others. You’ll work with lots of teams when you lead innovation and IT teams work differently to HR departments. There’s no set way for doing things, so it’s important to be flexible in your leadership approach.
Innovation Requires Mediation
In an ideal world, everybody would get on and agree. We all know that’s impossible, and conflict is a natural part of collaborating. Perhaps one team member thinks things should be done differently, and others disagree. Leaders must ensure they mediate between all members and work with others to reach an agreement. If you want to become a great leader, it’s important you work on your mediation skills.
Ready to Lead Innovation?
There is a very distinct gap between the recognition that innovation is essential and teams implementing it. However, this gap could be closed if companies dedicated themselves to using the talent they have and encouraging ideas from team members. One excellent way to allow employees to think of ideas is to encourage an incentive scheme.
Leading innovation will never be simple, but once companies learn to work together and give their leaders, the chance to drive change forward they can look forward to a prosperous future.
About This Leading Innovation Guide
This guide offers the most insightful articles, educational videos, expert insights, specialist tips and best free tutorials about leading innovation from around the internet. The learning guide is split into four levels: introduction, basics, advanced and expert. You can learn at your own pace. Each item shows an estimated reading or watching time, allowing you to easily plan when you want to read or watch each item. Below you’ll find a table of contents that enables you to easily find a specific topic you might be interested in.
What is Innovation?
Every expert has their own views on what innovation is and how companies can improve it. Some of them even rightly point out that it’s become a bit of a buzzword and perhaps we shouldn’t be looking for a singular definition as it will vary based on circumstance.
But after going through all of the responses, it became clear that there are definitely some underlying themes that crop up again and again.
Disruptive vs. Incremental Innovation
Incremental innovation focuses on continually making existing products or services more competitive by focusing on reducing costs and improving or adding features. This brings us to disruptive innovation. It explores new technologies and as such is characterized by a high level of risk and uncertainty.
Why Innovation Matters
Innovation puts companies on the offensive. Consider how Colgate and P&G, effective serial innovators, have innovated Unilever out of the U.S. oral-care market. The company that builds a culture of innovation is on the path to growth. The company that fails to innovate is on the road to obsolescence.
If Innovation is so important, then why isn’t everyone doing it?
Despite these well publicized arguments and a general acknowledgement of the need to differentiate their business or service through innovation, few Senior Management Teams (SMTs) actually understand what that means for them and their business on a day to day basis! What holds companies back from what they should be doing, makes interesting, if alarming reading.
A Brief History of Innovation
With today’s breathless enthusiasm for innovation, it’s hard to remember when, as far as the management literature was concerned, innovation was something that guys in white coats who worked for companies like DuPont did in the R&D lab. Expanding an existing business into new corporate territory, or corporate venturing, was called “diversification,” not innovation.
To Re-invent Your Company, Reinvent Yourself
Companies are increasingly recognizing that today’s turbulent times require nothing short of continual reinvention. Weathering today’s storm isn’t enough. Companies need to develop repeatable processes that regularly renew their firms before the next crisis hits. This kind of renewal must begin with the leaders themselves.
Who is Responsible for Innovation?
We all know that successful innovation isn’t just about coming up with an idea for the next big thing. True innovation requires ownership and agile execution in order to succeed. Companies that aren’t aligned on who should “own” innovation shouldn’t be surprised when a specific project doesn’t turn out as planned.
The Art of Innovation
Guy Kawasaki at TEDxBerkeley 2014: “Rethink. Redefine. Recreate.” His talk is titled “The Art of Innovation.”
Guy Kawasaki is a special advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google. He is also the author of APE, What the Plus!, Enchantment, and nine other books. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.
How Leaders Enable Innovation In Their Teams
Think innovation happens in a vacuum? Think again! The best ideas require out-of-the-box thinking, yes, but sometimes they also take inspiration — or maybe just an encouraging word at a critical moment. If you’re a leader in the workplace or anywhere else, look at these eight suggestions for enabling higher levels of innovation from your team.
Building a Fast and Efficient Innovation Team
Teams are the essential motive force of most innovation projects. Innovation almost always involves people working together, integrating disparate sets of knowledge from across the entire range of the firm’s operations, including product, finance, marketing, sales, service, and/or delivery, so you’ll need to have people with knowledge of all these facets involved.
Traits Of Successful Innovation Teams
It’s no secret that innovation is tough to pull off, and even the “most innovative” companies, such as General Electric, Whirlpool and Proctor & Gamble can fall fast, despite great effort on the part of their innovation leaders. With even the stalwarts being disrupted, do innovation teams really matter? And if so, what does a sustainable and well-developed innovation program look like in the Age of Disruption?
Full Team Engagement in the Innovation Culture
The possibility of innovation is born when people transcend the beliefs that limit their thinking, and engage in the search for new and better ways. When people are doing this consistently and throughout your organization, you will see a pattern begin to emerge which you will discover is the dawning of the innovation culture.
How Leaders Can Foster Innovation
Whether experimenting out of public view or transparently in view of all stakeholders, it is clear that leaders have to be bold thinkers and from the top-down or across the board, they play a primary role in fostering innovative organizations. Innovation is the high-performance mantra of most business gurus.
Tips to Foster a Company Culture of Innovation
Companies, like humans, gain comfort in patterns — doing what they’ve always done because it’s considered safe. They’re afraid to enter a new industry, offer a product outside their specialty or try a new approach to marketing because failing could be costly. Here are four tips to help your company foster a culture of innovation.
Key Abilities of Effective Innovation Leaders
As a learner and an innovator, you’re naturally a person who’s curious to discover new things, and you exemplify the personality characteristics that embody learning. You’re always interested in surprises, because surprises indicate that something that you used to believe is perhaps not so, and such a discovery can be enormously helpful to the cause of innovation, as we seek to overturn facts that are actually not facts at all, but were merely mistaken assumptions.
Building an Effective Framework for Innovation
Innovation needs champions, people who will drive through the problems and set backs, convince sceptics of the need to do new things and make a good idea produce results. Perhaps you are that champion: perhaps just for your team or division of your company, or perhaps for the entire organisation as the Chief Innovation Officer. If so you have an exciting time ahead. Remember, once a great idea is recorded it can never die; but there’s a lot to get right before you can be sure that it will fly.
Convergent Thinking vs. Divergent Thinking
Convergent thinking tends to be more focused (target) while divergent thinking is more flexible and iterative.
Convergent thinking is analytical and focused on what’s best.
By contrast, divergent thinking is open-ended.
Participants are encouraged to take creative risks even though some ideas might not work.
Strategies for Generating Ideas
In reviewing the unconventional methods of these leading organizations, I conclude that, while breakthroughs can never be guaranteed, superior idea management systems can do much to increase throughput and output of significant ideas. These leading-edge organizations tap seven key strategies for fortifying their idea factories.
Idea Generation Techniques
Ideas are things that come and go and fairly frequently too. However, the really great ideas usually spring unexpectedly in moments of inspiration. It becomes easier to come up with great ideas when we free ourselves from the mundane, everyday, conventional thoughts that take up the thought space in our brain.
How to Evaluate Ideas
Organizational innovation is not just about generating creative business ideas. It is also about reviewing ideas in order to identify those which are most likely to become successful innovations. Unfortunately, many organizations make mistakes in their idea review processes that result in rejecting the most potentially innovative ideas in favor of less innovative ones.
Idea Implementation Plan
There are a number of reasons why creative ideas fail to become innovations. Sometimes it is because the idea, which seems brilliant in concept, is flawed in application. More often, the problem is that organizations invest in creative ideation initiatives (often called “innovation initiatives”), such as brainstorming events, idea management, ideas campaigns and the like, but fail to invest in implementing the most creative ideas that come from those initiatives.
Implementing Ideas Step-by-Step
This kind of thing often happens following the birth of a great idea, whether it is over drinks after work, the result of a brainstorm or a suggestion submitted to your idea management software. Big, crazy, breakthrough ideas seem wonderful when you are dreaming them up, but frightening when it comes time to implement them. Fortunately, the field personal development has a technique that you can apply: personal development planning (PDP). Indeed, this approach is so simple and effective, I have included it in as the fourth and final step of my anti-conventional thinking process.
How to Sell Innovation within Your Organization
One of the largest challenges that both marketers and developers face when they wish to try anything new is convincing the decision-makers at the top of the organization that they should take a risk on something unproven.
What can be done to help convince risk-averse managers to take a chance on your new ideas?
Overcoming the Obstacles to Innovation
Every company, particularly in the tech field, wants to “innovate.” Breaking with tradition and bringing the new-and-improved versions of products to the market sounds like an impressive goal, but it’s not always easy to accomplish. Business leaders shared what they believe are the biggest innovation obstacles modern companies face, and how to overcome them.
How to Build a Company Where the Best Ideas Win
What if you knew what your coworkers really thought about you and what they were really like? Ray Dalio makes the business case for using radical transparency and algorithmic decision-making to create an idea meritocracy where people can speak up and say what they really think — even calling out the boss is fair game. Learn more about how these strategies helped Dalio create one of the world’s most successful hedge funds and how you might harness the power of data-driven group decision-making.
Further Reading: Best Books About Leading Innovation
The Three-Box Solution: A Strategy for Leading Innovation. Innovation guru Vijay Govindarajan expands the leader’s innovation tool kit with a simple and proven method for allocating the organization’s energy, time, and resources—in balanced measure—across what he calls “the three boxes.”
Leading Global Innovation: Facilitating Multicultural Collaboration and International Market Success. This book provides a practice perspective with specific models and solutions for facilitating multicultural team collaboration, from concept to market. It offers crucial guidance for executives, managers, consultants, and educators who would like to understand how to lead and orchestrate innovation in a culturally diverse and networked business environment.
Shift: Leading Change with Human-Centered Innovation. In business, when we move from a corporate-centered approach to a human-centered approach, profit becomes not so much the goal as the consequence of purpose-driven work that meets customers’ needs.
Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation. Using vivid stories of individual leaders at companies like Volkswagen, Google, eBay, and Pfizer, as well as nonprofits and international government agencies, the authors show how successful leaders of innovation don’t create a vision and try to make innovation happen themselves. Rather, they create and sustain a culture where innovation is allowed to happen again and again—an environment where people are both willing and able to do the hard work that innovative problem solving requires.
Further Learning: Best Leading Innovation Courses
Managing Innovation and Design Thinking. Go beyond general management with structured models and techniques used by successful entrepreneurs and CEOs. You will learn how to drive innovation at any stage of business development — from developing an idea to leading a company.
Innovation Management. Go on a nine-week journey through innovation management concepts, theories of idea generation, selection, strategy formulation and implementation in this MOOC in Innovation Management. In it, you will also learn the tools for implementing innovation projects yourself.
Building innovation capacity in your team or organization. This course will show you how you can build an innovation pipeline, improve idea velocity and enhance business impact through an 8-steps approach. Moreover, you will also explore ways of sustaining participation in innovation activity.
The Innovation Masterclass – Creating an Innovation Culture. This course is about creating a culture for organizational innovation. It covers action you can take to innovate in four aspects of your organization: Products and Markets, Business processes, Workplace practices and Business models. In addition, the course provides a four-step model to boost innovation in your organization, and looks at some of the main global trends that are changing markets and business practices.