Robert Tucker, author of Innovation Is Everybody's Business
, in an interview with the Center for Association Leadership
, believes "innovation is approaching any challenge that you face with an open mind and a creative-solution orientation". If you think about this, this implies that there are an infinite number of situations that can be improved by innovative thinking.
An innovative organization is open to energizing and encouraging the creativity of their people. This is the ultimate key to success as an innovative leader. You do not have to have all of the fabulous ideas yourself. You need to ensure that you operate an environment that encourages your team to come up with them.
Innovation is not just grand large ideas. Most innovation is, in fact, incremental, making small improvements to existing products or systems.
Of course, there will be failures. However, the biggest failure is a manager who is too scared to allow the possibility of failures. You cannot predict exactly how something will perform in the marketplace. An innovative leader is prepared to take a measured risk, and accept that there is learning to be had from every failure made. Indeed, this can be considered as incremental too. If the first four innovations marketed fail to perform as wished, but the fifth one does and brings in $50 million additional revenue, then it could be considered that each innovation brought in $10 million additional revenue. If you had not taken any risks, you would not have received that $50 million.
Henry Ford's Model T may have had to be black, but it is clear that he was an early example of innovative leadership. Ford's main strength was that he was able to see the potential benefits of technology and was able to foster a team to use that technology, allied with streamlined systems, to build a car that was accessible to the masses. His biggest failure was that he stopped monitoring his customers' changing needs. So his innovative leadership faltered in his later years as he failed to modify his vision to match a new marketplace.
How much of an innovative leader are you? Are you, as an executive, truly behind the drive to innovate at your company, or are you just paying lip service to it? Are you more stimulated by delivering profits from current operations and maximizing the growth of existing product lines, or are you actually fully committed to keeping your company innovating, even at the expense of the status quo? How important is it to you, to be permanently in a state of evolution, like the computer industry?
As a leader, are you taking a fresh approach to innovation, or are you just following the rest of the pack?