Are you prepared to lead innovation? Whether to offer better products and solutions for your customers, or to solve organizational challenges, you will need to have the right mindset and be equipped with the skills necessary for innovation success.
Here are the do's and don'ts that can help leaders drive the innovation process successfully in the workplace.
Leading Innovation : The Do's
- Ask questions. Be genuinely curious. You don’t need to be the technical expert to manage innovation, but you must show an appetite for new approaches to solving problems. By asking questions, you help your team to explore new possibilities.
- Set goals and deadlines. Experiment first and then formulate reasonable objectives. Deadlines are important to keep your team on track and ensure accountability, but you will probably need to course correct and be flexible.
- Encourage research. As Peter Drucker said: "Look, Ask and Listen." Be more active during the process of understanding the situation, getting data, new insights, and testing innovative ideas.
- Be market-driven. Listen to your potential customers and understand their problems before you rush to the market with a solution to a non-existing problem for your target.
- Build on your strengths. Identify as many opportunities as you can, and then prioritize those that fit you and the company. If you try to follow the strategy that competitors are already employing, you might be at a disadvantage and not using the elements that make you unique.
- Learn to tolerate ambiguity. It’s unrealistic to think you can predict reactions and have 100% of the information. If you are certain, you are not innovating.
- Take charge of IP. Intellectual property matters and you should have clear rules and a system to protect your assets.
- Engage your stakeholders. Give special attention to the R&D team but don’t leave ownership to just one group of people in the company. You will need to find effective ways to engage each key person or department.
- Lead through people. Get the right people on board, become a team and then, share responsibilities. Show your leadership by delegating, showing trust and supporting your team members instead of doing everything yourself.
- Provide resources. This doesn’t mean investing tons of cash but to consider other crucial elements such as expertise, data, time, access to customer or any other stakeholder.
- Create collective incentives. Use these as an opportunity to engage people. You can give individual recognition, but when it comes to significant rewards, it’s preferable to reward the entire team.
- Break down silos. Departments or teams working in isolation can restrict efficiency and innovation in your company. Diversity of thoughts is vital to generate creative, more robust ideas. Establish a culture of transparency and openness. This will help you to attract and retain talent as well as provide newcomers space to contribute.
- Get the mindset right. If there's only one to remember, do pick this one. Train your people to experiment, understand, embrace, and lead innovation. Having a clear process will be very helpful but preparing your team with the right mindset will be far more effective.
- Believe you can do it! A very wise man (Henry Ford) once said: “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Leading Innovation : The Dont's
- Don’t wait for the perfect idea or the ‘right moment’ to get started. Begin with something small, simple and focused. It’s normal not to know every single detail at first. This more agile approach will give you the flexibility you need to incorporate or change elements.
- Don’t micromanage your team. Nobody wants to micromanage, but it’s very easy to fall into this trap. Your role should be to facilitate innovation. Invest your time in making sure that clear objectives are set, resources are available, and momentum is kept alive.
- Don’t play the blame game. Encourage your team to take controlled risks and learn from their mistakes. That’s a good moment to provide feedback and ask questions about new ways to try in the future.
- Don’t let ego get in the way. Explain your vision, give direction, and stay humble and teachable. Remember that the big idea doesn’t have to come from you.
- Don’t make decisions that would compromise your integrity.
Innovation can be hard and doesn't happen overnight. It’s not only about being smart enough, creative enough or fast enough; the equation is more complex than that. Don’t get discouraged when things go differently. Keep moving forward and get back up wiser and stronger. It’s all part of the process.
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