A deliberate focus on innovation is critical for organizational growth and development. To truly lead innovation, pay special attention to this checklist:
- Culture that supports innovation. Culture can kill strategy, so pay constant attention to ways you can build and maintain a culture of innovation. It is vital if you want to ensure your strategy has a chance of survival.
- People with the right mindset. Having the right tools and developing the right skills without the right mindset is like having a high-performance automobile without gasoline. Leaders must be role models and encourage people to develop their ability to defer judgment, tolerate ambiguity and be genuinely curious.
- Enabling processes and systems. To break down the organizational barriers to innovation, ensure that people have appropriate governance, funding, resources, support and access to decision-makers.
- Room to run with ideas. Innovation rarely works according to plan. It flourishes only in a culture where it’s possible for people to try, make mistakes and learn from what happens.
- A culture of telling “what,” rather than “how.” Finally, remember that the leader’s job is not to tell people how to do things, nor is it to have all the great ideas. Nothing kills innovation more than the “know-it-all leader.” Ensure that you model appropriate humility, offer up your best challenge and then get out of the way to let people amaze you with novel, useful and potentially valuable solutions.
This checklist — along with the toolset, skillset and mindset needed to lead innovation — can be found in “Becoming a leader who fosters innovation,” a CCL white paper by David Horth and Jonathan Vehar. Vehar also writes about innovation on the Leading Effectively blog.