Leadership is undoubtedly a critical piece of the business innovation puzzle. In fact, a recent study showed that the highest performing companies centralise their innovation strategy in upper management, meaning it is often those at C-level who push for innovation within a company. But being a great leader isn’t enough if you hope to succeed this year.
It is argued that leadership must be rethought and refocused on harnessing the best of each individual (particularly considering the more interventive profile of the newest generations at work), while also creating collective genius.
Rather than getting people to follow you, leaders should look to encourage others to co-create alongside them, making full use of the power of collaboration to achieve their business goals.
So beyond the traditional role of a business leader, managers today must bring together different skillsets, mindsets and toolsets to innovate successfully. Only a good innovation leader can foster a culture of innovation and collaboration within their organisation’s walls, with collective efforts driving positive results and growth.
4 ways to master innovation leadership in the coming year
While many academics and entrepreneurs have dedicated their learning to leadership and innovation, not enough of them explore the connection between the two. In this day and age, thriving as an innovation leader requires relearning leadership roles, encouraging teamwork and assessing where you can add real value.
Here are four behaviours you should hone to ensure your organisation innovates routinely:
1. Strengthen your idea factory
CEOs ranked culture as the most important strategy to improve innovation performance in 2018. And it’s a growing trend. Fostering trust and collaboration, the building blocks to creating a culture of ongoing innovation, is a key part of the innovation leadership role.
By investing in your most valuable resource – your people and their insights –, you are stimulating the generation of valuable ideas. Diversity and inclusion are also fuel for the creative process, while methodologies such as gamification ensure continued engagement and enthusiasm towards achieving the goals of your company, in a collaborative way.
2. Create opportunities
Innovation leaders crave information and are always open to possibilities. They look to respond to unmet needs – often brought to their attention by involving the people on the ground – and see potential in every challenge. In short, it’s about assessing trends and getting feedback, on an ongoing basis, and always seeing the bigger picture.
3. Challenge the status quo
Teams or organisations may always have done something a certain way, or tried and failed in a specific approach. A good innovation leader doesn’t rely on what is comfortable, but instead challenges assumptions and envisions alternative possibilities. And when the workforce is encouraged to think for themselves, it opens up a world of possibilities and experimentation.
4. Move quickly
With studies showing that high-performing companies are more likely to strive for first-mover advantage, there seems to be a strong correlation between speed of execution and degree of innovation. Thinking ahead of the curve and looking to the future – by tracking emerging trends and connecting the dots – enables organisations to transform change into opportunity.
A good leader today is synonymous with transforming challenges into opportunities for the company and its people, by leveraging teamwork and collaboration. Rethinking the traditional leadership role (and mastering new skills) will enable managers and organisations to engage their people at a deeper level and ensure a sustainable and more brilliant future for their business.
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO