I have been lucky enough to work at organisations and with CEOs and CMOs that have created innovative cultures: Those who were adept at driving innovation and sustaining it over the long haul had one thing in common: they were hard-headed.
Their tough-mindedness came from an unshakable belief that innovation is critical to corporate survival, and that without powerful and constant change, innovation would be elusive. These trailblazers were innovative leaders, but surprisingly some of them weren’t all creative, themselves. That didn’t matter because they were good a recognizing great ideas and welcoming change. No change, no innovation.
So, how do unshakable leaders create change and how to they sustain the innovation outcome?
- They unsettle the organization. There’s a host of companies that get things done, control performance, spot problems and deliver their budgets. But the structures, the processes and the people that keep things ticking along can snuff good ideas and block movement through the system. Innovative leaders appreciate that there is a difference between what’s needed to run a business and what’s needed to foster creativity. This ethic prevents excessive layering from killing ideas before they reach the top.
- They’re hardheaded about strategy. Leaders who embrace innovation have a pretty clear idea of the kind of competitive edge they’re seeking. They are practical , focused and driven. When this methodology brings results, colleagues understand the strategy and a culture develops that facilitates execution.
- They walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Leading from the top they demonstrate openness to innovative thinking and practices creating coherent cross functional teams.
- Start from a deep understanding of customers, competitors and the business: balancing creative thinking with the discipline of assessing solutions and their implementation. The best backdrop for spurring innovation is knowledge – knowing the business cold.
- They appreciate that not many ideas work the first time,so they’re prepared to praise failure, move on, or try again until the company gets it right. innovative leaders marshal resources behind a few winners and then execute like SKY cycling team
Innovative leaders are a special breed. They aren’t as interested in “minding the store” as they are about “opening new stores.” Nor are they shy to admit to controlling strategic direction, influencing the culture, and monitoring the process and practice that unleashes business’s most elusive success factor.