Ever wondered why innovation is crucial to a company’s growth and longevity? No business can say no to innovation. In business, leadership and innovation go hand in hand.
Innovative leaders have been known to be good risk managers.
They are curious about everything around them.
But what is innovation, really?
- Is it the creation of new ideas for new products and services?
- Could it be the formulation of new effective methods of marketing?
- Or the discovery of game-changing knowledge?
The answer to all those questions is yes.
Innovation is the creation of something new and useful.
Unfortunately, most businesses tend to put innovation or the development of new ideas in the back burner.
To reduce this risk, businesses should always have an innovative leader in charge.
Look at Steve Jobs.
Examine how his love and penchant for innovation, led his company to its success.
Also, don’t forget the importance of creativity in his success.
Great leaders of today courageously lead their businesses to successful heights because they seize opportunities.
And finally, they always have strategic and solid business perspectives.
- Assuming you’re a business leader yourself, wouldn’t it be nice for you to change your company for the better?
- Then lead to its success through your creative actions and out-of-the-box strategies?
That’s the role of innovation and leadership.
Leadership And Innovation
How to Become an Innovative Leader in the Traditional Sense
Yes, there are two sets of traits/methods on how to nail both leadership and Innovation; traditional and aggressive.
The traditional one puts you in greater control of your work while the aggressive one makes you, well, to become more aggressive.
You don’t have to start wearing turtlenecks to become an innovative and creative leader and gain innovative skills (a.k.a. Steve Jobs).
You just need to learn and develop the following leadership and innovation traits:
The Ability to Take Calculated Risks
Innovative leaders are confident about what they do.
They are willing to face and manage risks to come up with new ideas.
However, they are not gamblers.
They only take calculated risks.
Be less afraid of risks.
Practice jotting down new ideas.
Whatever comes to mind, even those that will not sit well with many people.
These ideas, of course, should benefit the company.
Then, list down at least five of those ideas.
Out of those five, pick one that only poses minimal risk/s.
Center your focus around it and brainstorm for alternative ways that can lower the risk/s of that particular idea.
Also, set a time limit when brainstorming for alternatives.
When you fail to find an alternative, that means that you should consider proceeding with the original idea.
Focus on how you can get this idea started.
Don’t fret about every potential consequence that it might bring to you.
You only need to evaluate those consequences.
Proceed with the idea if the consequences won’t destroy you.
Here is a small-scale example.
You’re having issues with your employees exceeding the time for their breaks.
Why not observe what they do during breaks.
Are they overrunning their break time due to the idle chatting between employees?.
Then came up with a solution to stagger their break schedules.
Employees could go on breaks at different times.
It’s not a big-scale innovation, but it’s a start.
Innovation in leadership comes with risk.
And the risk here is that your employees might hate you for separating their break times.
Another risk is that they may become so unhappy with you that they become even more unproductive or quit the company altogether.
You try to think of a better way to solve this problem, but you can’t find an alternative solution.
So, you proceed with the original plan.
You have analyzed the situation and consequences.
And you have assured yourself that you can survive a little bit of scorn from them.
And if having separate breaks is the straw that will break their back and make them leave the company, well, you’re probably better off hiring people with better work ethics.
The solution you implemented is for the sake of the company and them.
Preventing them from going over the time limit of their break improves efficiency and prevents time theft.
Never forget the importance of creativity.
Creativity in leadership is one of the central pillars of being innovative.
It is from the keyword “create”.
Creativity is what generates innovation.
But how can you be creative?
You should always be curious to be creative.
You should always be aware of your surroundings.
And you should be more exposed to the industry; in fact, more than the average person.
To create new ideas, you need to have the initiative to learn new information.
You should make sure you check and update your skills and knowledge from time to time.
These evaluations will allow you to be aware that you always need to learn more.
Accumulate knowledge and experience faster.
To do that, you can create an environment that allows you to intercept and gain new ideas.
Make sure that information and ideas flow non-stop in the workplace.
Your employees should express their thoughts and perspectives for you to absorb more.
They are, after all, good sources of innovation and information, too.
Another thing that can help you become more creative and innovative is failure.
It’s a cliché, but mistakes are lessons you need to learn.
Failure allows you to know your limitations.
It also makes you become curious about the things you might have done wrong and what you can do to make them right.
Finally, supplement your knowledge with seminars and classes.
The Ability to Lead Courageously
This ties in with being capable of taking calculated risks.
Being an innovative leader, you must be confident and courageous.
If you’re not, then you can’t implement the innovations and ideas you have.
It will be such a waste to throw all those outrageous and creative new ideas you’ve thought of.
Is innovation scary?
Innovation equates to change, and people definitely hate that.
Even if human beings are good at adapting, they will never adapt as long as they can help it.
Remember that people are the number-one enemy of innovation.
A good proof of this is coffee and margarine.
Did you know that it took centuries for most of Western Europe to accept and drink coffee?
And you must know how intense the battle between margarine and butter in the United States was.
Even if margarine can taste and look like butter and is cheaper, some places have banned margarine.
Canada even outright banned margarine for more than half a century.
The point here is that you can expect that innovations will always be met with resistance.
This resistance might come from the same people who will gain from that innovation.
And people who will experience losses from the innovation will outright defy you.
Innovation in leadership requires you to toughen it out if you want to bring new things to the table.
Don’t expect people to accept innovation right away, even if your idea is new, exciting, and useful.
Can Seize Opportunities
As mentioned, innovations are always challenged.
Yet, people can only approve and accept a few of them.
This type of innovation might be superior against its predecessor or is one of a kind.
The main role of leaders nowadays is to create such innovations.
Next, leaders need to find the perfect opportunity to introduce such to the public.
After all, even if this type of innovation might not face resistance, it won’t work 100% of the time.
Remember that not all innovations are useful or needed.
Some of them might work on paper or in your imagination.
But reality will definitely show you otherwise.
A perfect example of this is Google Glass.
Google Glass was one of the most innovative products of this century.
It got all the hype.
It gave people a glimpse of the future.
Yet, the public wasn’t ready for it.
Google Glass has many aesthetic, health, and privacy concerns.
But its biggest issue is that it’s an incomplete product.
It stopped working without any warning.
Its features are unreliable.
Nobody knew why they needed it in the first place.
Simply put, it was something nobody asked for.
There will come a time when it can be practical to have one — maybe next year, but definitely not today or tomorrow.
Google could have waited for that opportunity.
It could’ve avoided its premature “death.”
It’s unfortunate since it’s one of the most innovative products Google has developed.
Another thing that you can do to innovate is to look back at past mistakes and setbacks.
More often than not, failures are a gold mine of innovative opportunities.
For example, checking out your recent mistake may allow you to see an opportunity.
That opportunity may appear if you corrected the mistake you made.
That mistake may be a feature that you added to your product recently.
For example, your product is an online word processor.
When you added the feature, your customers shied away from using your online service.
You did some analysis of the feature and customer reactions.
You found out that you missed out on a few lines of code and that caused a few irritating bugs, which put off a lot of your users.
Then, you fixed the issue by replacing the lines of code.
The system now works.
Now your program’s reputation is restored.
Your customers are happy again and are now using the system.
Solid Business Perspective
A creative leader is good at maintaining a solid business perspective.
It’s all thanks to an unending curiosity and the continuous drive to learn.
They understand the ins and outs of the industry.
Also, they know what their customers and stakeholders feel and think.
Lastly, they know beforehand the potential obstacles and threats to the business.
They can apply all they know and harness their business perspective to create ideal innovations that will keep and maintain the business afloat in the market.
How to Become an Innovative Leader Aggressively
Develop New Best Practices
At this point, you are going to leave the norm and innovate your business from the ground up.
You start with the most common practices in your office.
Then you create newer and better approaches to how you do things.
Why do you need to do this?
First, it is to confirm what you have been doing.
In addition, to understand how what you’ve discovered to be the best practices limits you.
Following the same process in everything dampens your creativity since it doesn’t let you experience anything new or different.
Expect that people will go against this initiative to develop new best practices.
It’s another change after all.
They’ll say that the best practices are the only methods to get the job done and they’ve been doing those for a long time.
You should spice things up.
However, it doesn’t mean you’ll just throw everything out the window.
You should base the new things you’ll introduce from the best practices.
They still have merit after all.
Also, you must encourage divergent thinking among your employees.
Again, they are sources of innovation and ideas.
You shouldn’t be the only one who should be free to unleash your creativity and ideas.
They should as well.
Note that you might basically be reinventing the wheel.
It’s a huge task and you might fail.
Don’t do this alone and don’t get discouraged.
Make sure that you involve your team and be assured that even if this fails, you’ll definitely learn a lesson from it.
Your employees are important assets to you not because they work on your business, but because they can provide precious input.
Unfortunately, most bosses can’t harness the latter.
Because of the bosses themselves.
Take note that there are three factors that hinder innovation in business:
- Lack of self-confidence,
- Red tape/policies, and
- You, the boss.
Most bosses don’t want to take risks and let go of the reins.
It could be because they’re insecure or they’re too egotistical.
Either way, they restrict the flow of ideas at work.
Egotistical bosses tend to not listen to their employees because they believe that their ideas are no better than theirs.
Insecure bosses don’t listen because they don’t want their employees one-upping them.
Build an Innovative Team
If the previous step doesn’t make your employees help you become an innovative leader, then you need to push them.
At this point, you must establish an “innovation team.”
It’s true that the role of innovation in leadership is important.
However, don’t forget the value of having some employees capable of producing neat ideas for the company.
Innovation teams often work in the research and development department of a company.
However, building a sole innovation team separate from R&D has become a trend in the past few years.
According to studies, almost 8 out of 10 businesses prioritize innovation.
It’s true that you can put brainstorming innovative ideas as another task for most of your employees.
However, it’s better to establish a team since they can dedicate most of their time thinking of new ideas for your company.
Recently, Walmart in the United States created one for its online side of the business.
And after a few weeks of doing their work, the company’s online sales rose by 60%.
To make sure your innovation team becomes useful and successful, you must remind yourself of these five things.
- Create the team as soon as possible
Generating innovative ideas takes a lot of time.
You should also set rules and restrictions for the team early on.
Even though the innovative skills of people will improve from being free from limitations, they can also thrive when they are pushed to the corner.
2. Give them resources
Great ideas don’t come out of anywhere.
They need to be placed in a creativity-inducing environment.
Also, they should be free from any potential distractions.
Make sure you give them a dedicated space in your office and even a budget to assure that they will be happy working on the new things that can help your company.
3. Teach them to embrace failures
This is a tough pill to swallow.
Naturally, you want them to always succeed.
However, failure is another kind of success.
As mentioned earlier, you get a lot of insights and ideas from failures.
Mistakes and mishaps present various innovative opportunities.
The main idea here is that you need to prevent your team from not being forthcoming of their ideas because of their fear of failure.
4. Reward their success
Positive reinforcement works well with anyone. If they have done something right, reward them.
Rewards encourage them to repeat and hunger for accomplishments again and again.
5. Explain to your employees the reason for the existence of the innovation team
Unlike your regular employees, the people in the innovation team don’t directly bring money into the business.
Since the concept of an innovation team is typically unheard of, you should let people know what they are, what they do, and why they are there.
You don’t want the innovation team members to be distracted by other employees who question their position in the company.
Final thoughts on Leadership and Innovation
In a Nutshell
The biggest role of innovation and leadership in any business is to make a company be at the forefront of the industry.
With the existence of myriad direct competitors in any industry, you can easily get overshadowed anytime.
There’s a valid reason why innovative leaders are sought after.
Most of the success or instant billionaire stories for the past few years happened because of the great combination of leadership and innovation.
Just look at Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos.
Their companies are some of the leading innovative companies in the world.
Elon Musk is spearheading electric cars, space exploration, and possibly mass transit.
Mark Zuckerberg, as you know, leads the biggest social media network and online advertising system in the world.
Jeff Bezos, on the other hand, has Amazon.
It boils down to this, If you want to have a successful business, be innovative.
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