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6 Tips For Fostering Innovative Leadership


  • 6 Tips For Fostering Innovative Leadership

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

It’s an old saying. But it’s all too true.

A company’s culture can derail strategy execution. In fact, you may have seen it happen at your company.

Culture can also stifle innovation. When it does, it threatens a company’s survival. Put simply, stifling innovation hurts both your top and bottom lines.

A recent Capgemini study (2012) concludes that innovation is the difference between leaders and laggards in business.

But becoming more innovative isn’t as simple as it sounds. It requires financial resources, senior management support, and a culture that values and nurtures creativity.

It also requires leadership. Innovation leadership is crucial. Without it, you can’t create a corporate culture that fosters innovation.

Creating Innovation Leadership

Occasionally, creative leadership can emerge by accident. More often than not it requires a systematic sustained effort—an effort built on three key building blocks:

1. Tools & Techniques

Without a collection of the right tools and techniques, you’ll fail at creating innovative leadership. You can use these tools to create new options, implement novel ideas within the organization, develop commitment, and create alignment.

2. An Innovation Framework

A framework for creating innovation is paramount. It allows leaders to use their knowledge and skills to accomplish their goals. More important, it enables leaders to practice and master the right processes.

 3. An Innovation Mindset

Without the right mindset, the tools, techniques, and solutions for innovation won’t be effective. The right mindset is the foundation of creative thinking. It encourages leaders who allow for creative thinking instead of leaders who stifle it.

Creating innovation leadership at your company requires all three building blocks. Without all of them, any effort to create an organization that values and nurtures innovation will fail.

Fostering Innovative Leadership

Here are some actions you can take right now to help your business develop the toolset, skillset, and mindset required to foster and nurture innovation.

  • Learn to share the passion

Gather peers around you who share your passion for innovation. Together you might be able to create a mandate and a strategy for innovation at your company.

If you’re in senior management, you can issue a mandate and then create the strategy. Either way works as long as the passion is shared.

  • Walk the talk

There’s always going to be some tension between traditional business thinking and innovation thinking. That’s why it’s imperative that managers walk the talk.

One way to do this is to model what it will take—both individually and collectively—to become more innovative. Modeling new behavior can help create a tectonic shift in culture.

  • Promote creative collaboration

Promote collaboration and creative thinking throughout the business. You also want to communicate challenging strategic issues.

The IRS, for example, creates a rolling strategy rather than re-inventing the wheel annually. The issues then become focal points to get employees thinking creatively.

  • Create diverse teams

Create diverse teams of employees to address strategic issues creatively. Target employees that will go the extra mile. The diversity helps team members overcome limited thinking and stimulates the growth of novel ideas.

  • Provide access to creative systems/methods

Sometimes even the most creative thinkers stumble. Providing tools, methods, and experiences can help creative thinkers re-frame issues and think differently about existing issues and challenges, especially strategic ones.

  • Design and build systems

When you design and build systems designed to foster creativity you nurture innovation. Finding low cost ways to test and/or prototype new solutions helps.

Don’t let the culture in your organization stifle innovation. It’s too important to your bottom line and your business.

Creating a culture that fosters innovation can not only boost revenues, it can also help you survive today’s rapidly changing business landscapes.

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