We’d like to tell you a story. Actually that’s not quite true; we’d like you to tell the world a story about your organisation and how it transformed into one, which embraced innovation. Like all good stories it has a beginning, middle and an end; and that end is delivering real solutions, which transform the business landscape, deliver game-changing results for you and relevant experiences for your customers.
The key challenge is staying relevant to customers whilst being three steps ahead of competitors both existing and new in a world, which constantly outpaces average companies. Building future oriented innovation-led strategies and leadership approaches and embedding innovation capability into organisational culture is the only serious way to deliver business success.
But perhaps we are skipping ahead a little. In our article ‘rethinking innovation strategy’ we started the story, examining the importance of directing the business focus towards creating strategic innovation. Now we are moving on, shaping events by enabling innovation leadership before finally embedding a culture of innovation which will make game-changing innovation capability simply part of ‘how’ you do things.
Why the story? Quite simply because those who lead have to be great communicators, great at enthusing and energising hearts and minds in delivering the strategy. It’s a trait, which is sought in all leaders, but when it comes to innovation the art of communication assumes a greater importance. That’s because innovation stories can be positive or negative, but communicated they must be. The key is to turn the so called negative stories the ‘failures’ into ‘learning episodes’ and in doing so address one of the biggest barriers to innovation, the perception of risk.
So what is innovation leadership? In a nutshell it is all about creativity, about seeing the big picture or the parts others don’t and shaping the organisation in pursuit of that future. It needs vision, and clear direction but above all it needs a mindset, which can see potential and overcome barriers.
One area in which many organisations fall down is in the understanding of the nature of innovation leadership. Innovation leaders don’t have to be innovators, they just have to be able to lead for innovation. True, there are some such as the late Steve Jobs who possess innovation and leadership qualities but they are few and far between.
Taking the idea of leading for innovation one step further, innovation leaders don’t even have to sit at the top of the organisation. Whilst the CEO along with the senior team have to be the main owner of innovation and strategy, innovation can be ‘led’ from anywhere in the organisation. All it takes is an ‘innovation champion’; someone who is passionate, enthusiastic and so inspired by innovation potential that they are willing to help build it into organisational culture. Some label these people as ‘intrapreneurs’ but we like to call them ‘i-agents’. However, with an IBM survey in 2010 revealing that ‘Creativity is the No1 leadership competency to succeed today and in the future’ it is hardly surprising that leaders are increasingly being chosen for their innovation leadership abilities.
With innovation strategy led from the top and i-agents working at any level within the organisation we can start to turn to the next chapter of our story. With the innovation leadership aligned they can start to create the right environment (or ecosystem) for innovation to become an organisation-wide capability and hence a driver of true competitive advantage. This takes skill, the skill to translate the innovation strategy into the actual action and behaviour required by everyone at every level of the organisation and the skill to communicate what is required. Only then can you move on to embed the desired culture.
So the challenge is out there. If you are a CEO or a senior leader and innovation is a current strategic challenge then are you ready to start to tell your story? If you are sincere about shaping the future of your organisation then get in touch to discuss how The Future Shapers team can help you to take the steps towards being considered a true innovation leader.