Most leaders demonstrate a degree of entrepreneurialism. They keep abreast of new technologies, topics and trends in their fields, and try to introduce new ideas where possible.
However, many of my clients often tell me they wish they could do more.
It’s not for want of trying or a lack of passion, it’s just that most leaders are bogged down with day-to-day tasks and many right now are simply focused on survival, and wondering what 2022 really holds.
Leading and inspiring innovation is more than just a set of tasks or a checklist. It’s a mindset which leads to a culture which is infused with fresh creativity from the top down and bottom up.
Its now even more important than ever in these times of uncertainty to ensure we are listening to our staff, harnessing creativity and keeping our external antennae to the ground. This will help capture as many new ideas as possible which can be used to drive progress and productivity.
But how can leaders ensure they are still being innovative in these challenging times? Here are a few ideas:
- Innovation is homegrown.
Great ideas often come from internal staff. Individuals who are the closest to the products, customers and challenges on the ground – can often quickly identify what’s going wrong and have already thought of viable solutions. But are you genuinely open to their feedback? Most companies have regular team meetings and have a dedicated space for feedback on their intranets. But in a hierarchical company where staff know their ideas will be dismissed, they are less likely to come forth with their ideas. Make sure you are providing open channels and real opportunities for your staff to raise issues and provide solutions, to help you shift and shape your business models to drive productivity and impact.
- Open innovation
Open innovation has become a slightly overused term, but it’s still just as important as ever. Making sure you are partnering with great organisations, entrepreneurs, think tanks and academic institutions, who are researching and regularly churning out new information in your field is key. No one innovates alone and no great movement is ever catalysed by just one person. We should all take stock and inspiration from the movements that were mobilised during Covid. Look how quickly and efficiently the banks worked together to produce new digital solutions to provide effective support, funds and information to their customers. Imagine if more institutions collaborated around topics such as urban poverty or social inclusion in this way – think what could be achieved!
- Carving out space to think, learn and innovate
Making sure you carve out time for staff to explore new ideas is essential to nurture innovation. Holding innovation events outside of the usual activity, where teams get together to think, review and be creative is key to inspiring innovation. Google is one of the best at this, and obviously they have the luxury of time and resources to provide their staff with this space. But it doesn’t have to be extravagant, just a commitment to provide staff with time e.g. an afternoon once a month to explore, talk and draw in experiences from external sources. By carving out time, you demonstrate to staff that innovation matters and they will begin to gather information and ideas, and this will eventually become commonplace in your organisations.
Leading innovation is about inspiring a culture where staff are given the license and agency to bring creative ideas to the forefront. In the early stages of my career, I was lucky enough to have been led by talented and supportive leaders. They gave me the space to try new things, supported me when I made mistakes, and praised and celebrated my successes. If every individual was granted the space to innovate in this way, you would have more passionate, inspired and happier members of staff – and a much higher level of productivity in more organisations.
If you are interested in learning more, do get in touch.