Five Core Factors that Drive Innovation Success

Innovation Today’s post was co-authored by Maureen Metcalf and Kara Rising, new member of the Metcalf & Associates coaching team. Innovation is a key differentiator for a business to thrive in this time of dramatic change. Are you experimenting with new behaviors and ideas to keep your company and skills up to date or are depreciating as a leader? Julie Anixter, the executive director of Innovation Excellence shares her insight on how she defines innovation and what steps are needed to be a successful innovating leader and company and not fall behind the times or lose value with Maureen Metcalf during a Voice America interview.

Innovation is a popular buzzword today and it’s not surprising given how important it is to a thriving business. Many professionals and leaders see innovation as a four letter word with the lens that only the truly unique and talented are able to be innovators. However, innovation is just creating something new that adds value. The truth is that as humans we are innately creative and are innovating without knowing it or labeling it as such. It is in our blood, it can be learned, it can be taught and as Julie points out it “is our birthright”. There is only one way that innovation should be intimidating and that is if you believe you are unable to learn. Innovation is more than just a word that leaders throw around, it is creativity, it is problem solving, it is curiosity and critical thinking. The people who created Uber, a multibillion dollar company currently disrupting the whole transportation business, looked around at the current taxi system and said “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could track, call and pay for a taxi all on our iPhones?” They saw the world with a critical lens to identify a need and created something from that. That’s innovation.
The question from this is, “How willing are you to try new things and keep making them work?”

  1. Failure will happen with innovation but as Thomas Edison said “I didn’t succeed, I failed a thousand times”. Look at innovation through the mind of a scientist – we are then able to celebrate not only our successes but also our failures. Each failure brings data with it that can be absorbed into the process to bring us that much closer to solving the problem. Today’s businesses don’t view failure as something to be celebrated, only because they don’t always have the time or budget to keep experimenting with things that don’t work.
  2. Well-structured data and analytics programs are critical. By gathering correct data from users and the market we can easily and more accurately predict what is more likely to be successful.
  3. Innovation demands a different mindset, one that is away from perfectionism. Google Glass is a perfect example of an idea that was experimented with but ultimately did not succeed, and it is because Google is willing to value innovation and try despite failure that makes it such an innovative and successful company.
  4. Organizational Leadership is the most important factor that dictates the success or failure of innovation. They are so inherently intertwined that neither can be successful without the other.
  5. Board support is also critical to promote a successful innovative company, they make a structural commitment to support innovation, promote diversity, expect solid data gathering, and ensure they retain innovative leaders.

Julie points out that there are many models for innovation that are being used in today’s climate, but one in particular that stands out is from Steve Coley, called H1, H2, H3 all standing for Horizon 1, Horizon 2 and Horizon 3. Each of these horizons represents a facet of your business that must be focused on to achieve growth in business. H1 being your core business, H2 being adjacencies (what opportunities do you have access to), and H3 being disrupting the field. The business that focuses exclusively on H1 and does nothing with the other horizons will not succeed, and it is those companies we see falling off the Fortune 500 list today.

For innovation to thrive in a workplace, the leader must value innovation enough to allow a space to be created for workers to be able to feel the freedom to create and express those ideas in a safe place. This requires a leader to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. If an employee feels that their colleagues or leader will not value their input or will dismiss their ideas or creates a fear of failure climate, innovation will not survive and will be squelched. Leaders also have to enable a climate that can tolerate risk because innovation is inherently risky. Judith Blazer in Conversational Intelligence, talks about how when we have the ability to co-create, co-discover and collaborate we enable the release of the hormone oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and creates in us the confidence and good feeling to continue. However when we are flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone, innovation and creativity die.

Diversity is important because it allows us to enter the real world and leave the safety of our boxes to get a new viewpoint of the problem as well as new solutions. This means choosing projects that are uncomfortable and out of your skill set to create the neuro-pathways to build innovation. Julie brings up a good exercise titled “Borrowing Brilliance”. Think of your favorite innovator, Disney, Google, Virgin, Amazon… how would they run your company?

Innovation is a necessity in our fast paced global world, to make it work we must have several elements present: a strong diverse team, an inspirational vision, clear goals to reach those visions, time dedicated to accomplishing goals, financial and human resources, stimulus to innovate, political buffers to provide a safe environment for innovation, good integrators between the data and the innovators, and solid analytics. How does your business stack up? How are you innovating not only in business but also in your personal life? What have you learned from Julie today that you can apply to take your innovation to the next level?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.system to a regenerative, inclusive one that can ensure the thriving of our biosphere and ourselves.

photo credit: Dean Meyers

Marrying Global Leadership and Innovation

Global cc BarryThe following post is an excerpt from the recently released Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders by Maureen Metcalf, Steve Terrell Ed.D., and Ben Mitchell.

Leadership needs innovation the way innovation demands leadership, and by marrying the two, you can improve your capacity for growth and improved effectiveness. Let’s explore innovating leadership in a more tangible way by defining it in practical terms: What does innovating leadership really mean?

It is important to first understand each topic beyond its more conventional meaning. For example, most definitions of leadership alone are almost exclusively fashioned around emulating certain kinds of behaviors: leader X did “this” to achieve success, and leader Y did “that” to enhance organizational performance.

Even if initially useful, such approaches are still, essentially, formulas for imitating leadership, and are likely ineffectual over the long term. Innovating leadership cannot be applied as a monolithic theory, or as a simple prescriptive measure. It occurs through your own intellect and stems from your own unique sensibilities.

In order to enhance this unique awareness process, you will need a greater foundational basis from which to explore both topics, which means talking about them in an entirely different context.

Let’s start with a straightforward definition of global leadership:

Global leadership is a process of influencing people strategically and tactically, affecting change in intentions, actions, culture, and systems within a global context.

Leadership influences individual intentions and organizational cultural norms by inspiring purpose and creating alignment. It equally influences an individual’s actions and an organization’s efficiencies through tactical decisions.

Innovation, as an extension of leadership, refers to the novel ways in which we advance that influence personally, behaviorally, culturally, and systematically throughout the organization.

Innovation is a novel advancement that shapes organizations: personally, behaviorally, culturally, and systematically.

In addition to linking the relationship of leadership to innovation, notice that we’re also revealing them as an essential part of our individual experience. Just as with leadership and innovation, the way you uniquely experience and influence the world is defined through a mutual interplay of personal, behavioral, cultural, and systematic events. These same core dimensions that ground leadership and innovation also provide a context and mirror for your total experience in any given moment or on any given occasion.

Optimally, then, leadership is influencing through an explicit balancing of those core dimensions. Innovation naturally follows as a creative advancement of this basic alignment. In our experience, leadership and innovation are innately connected and share a deep commonality.

Therefore, marrying leadership with innovation allows you to ground and articulate both in a way that creates a context for dynamic personal development—and dynamic personal development is required to lead innovative transformative change.

Innovating global leadership means global leaders influence by equally engaging their personal intention and action with the organization’s culture and systems.

Though we are defining innovative global leadership very broadly, we are also making a distinct point: The core aspects that comprise your experience—whether it be intention, action, cultural, or systematic—are inextricably interconnected. If you affect one, you affect them all.

Innovative global leadership is based on the recognition that those four dimensions exist simultaneously in all experiences, and already influence every interactive experience we have. So if, for example, you implement a strategy to realign an organization’s value system over the next five years, you will also affect personal motivations (intentions), behavioral outcomes and organizational culture. Influencing one aspect—in this case, functional systems—affects the other aspects, since all four dimensions mutually shape each other. To deny the mutual interplay of any one of the four dimensions misses the full picture. You can only innovate leadership by comprehensively addressing all aspects.

To summarize, leadership innovation is the process of improving leadership that allows already successful leaders to raise the bar on their performance and the performance of their organizations.

An innovative leader is defined as someone who consistently delivers results using:

  • Strategic leadership that inspires individual intentions and goals and organizational vision and culture;
  • Tactical leadership that influences an individual’s actions and the organization’s systems and processes; and,
  • Holistic leadership that aligns all core dimensions: individual intention and action, along with organizational culture and systems.

To learn more about global leadership purchase the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

By Maureen Metcalf   photo credit: Barry creative commons license