The 1st element for successful innovation: Leadership and commitment

The prevailing myth in innovation, says physicist Safi Bahcall, the author of ‘Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries’, is that there is a single figure who builds an empire based on his or her ideas. Actually, those who truly succeed are those who create a structure for nurturing loonshots: ideas that are often written off as being ‘crazy’.

Those who successfully lead innovation are not necessarily visionary innovators; they are “careful gardeners”.

Innovation has indeed never been for the short-sighted, and the coming decade will certainly prove that. From smart cities and homes to automated and connected devices, printable organs and the “Internet of Everywhere” (the always-on, always-connected ecosphere), it seems that 2020 will offer a fresh series of possibilities.

But this is only true for those innovation leaders who have the vision to reach out and grab them. Therefore, the first of 6 must-have dimensions to innovate successfully in 2020 is leadership vision and commitment.


Leading for innovation

It is important to note that an innovation leader goes beyond the traditional role of a business leader. They must bring together different mindsets, skills and tools to innovate successfully while encouraging others to do the same. Along with their individual strengths and responsibilities, their role is to foster a culture of innovation and collaboration, so that collective efforts are essentially what drive positive results and growth within an organisation’s walls.

Being one such leader isn’t necessarily an innate talent. Rather than being a rare find, an innovation leader can be selected at hiring level and his or her skills developed within an appropriate company culture. According to innovation management expert Jean-Philippe Deschamps in his latest book, ‘Innovation Leaders: How Senior Executives Stimulate, Steer and Sustain Innovation’, organisations must cultivate leaders who thrive on uncertainty and champion change, leading the way into 2020 and beyond.

Essentially, it is about moving away from a myopic perspective and always seeing the bigger picture. Challenging assumptions, envisioning alternative possibilities, getting feedback and going beyond what is comfortable on an ongoing basis is the formula to succeed as an innovation leader.

But it also involves being facilitators of innovation among their teams, acting as a conductor and encouraging people to think for themselves. They are ‘connective leaders’, says consultancy firm Q5.

The ideal innovation leader is therefore someone who can channel their organisation’s purpose and translate it into practices and meaning for the entire workforce, at different levels of the organisation. By promoting ideation and experimentation internally, there is a whole world of new, undiscovered possibilities within the reach of any company.

As an innovation manager, you need leadership vision and commitment, investing in approaches that are aligned with strategic corporate objectives and C-level goals. It’s a big ask for any innovation leader. Only by setting and nurturing a common, shared purpose can organisations truly see consistent, long-term results.



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