Recently, I attended a webinar with nearly 400 other Chief Learning Officers - during one polling period, we were asked what primary driving force pushes organization-wide or individual innovation - the majority agreed that leadership is that force.
Indeed, those CLOs agreed innovation was the most important quality their organizations desire in teams, individuals and leaders.
In today's fast-paced society, where images, ideas and ideals fly past through our minds at warp-speed, the only way to survive and succeed is to innovate as much and as often as possible.
I don't mean that you innovate for innovation's sake, rather you must add value, improve quality and enhance competence in every one of your tasks, products and services and that work must be done in an highly innovative fashion.
What strategies can leaders use to empower, propel and energize our innovative efforts?
Strategy-1 - Empower the Quest!
When we encounter inconsistencies, problems, difficulties, incongruities, dysfunction, mysteries or challenges, aren't those the times we notice that there are “gaps in our knowledge"?
When gaps are found we naturally want to search for solutions, or ways to bridge or augment our knowledge.
Leaders who aspire to leading others in authentic, committed, honorable ways strive to channel the power of open and forthright discussion and inquiry. In a word, leaders with integrity are not afraid to seek out and face the truth.
Wise leaders realize that the truth contains its own energy supply - through the pursuit of truth, our perceptions take on keener insights, we see our situations from afar and we can see them more clearly.
What is truth? We need to understand that our knowledge is insufficient [I like to call it, our “knowledge deficit"], and after acknowledging that, we must hunt for facts, ideas or theories to help us erase our knowledge-deficit.
Strategy-2 - Propel the Momentum!
When you begin the search for those ‘deficit-filling’ facts,
ideas and theories, you will see, discover or uncover at least one or more of these patterns and phenomena:
=> the unexpected - are the results you got the results you expected?
=> the break in logic, assumption or rhythm - does there seem to be something that is illogical or that doesn't make sense under the circumstances?
=> the change in structure or paradigm behind the “problem" - is it possible that our industry, profession or technology has changed or has those things experienced a change in the way they are structured?
Effective leaders “propel the momentum" of innovation by challenging assumptions, traditions and comfort levels.
By aggressively testing the results of every activity for its contributions to productivity, resourcefulness and growth, leaders can keep the “ball" of innovative momentum rolling.
Strategy-3 - Energize the Process!
Asking the right questions guides leaders towards truth - honestly searching for and fearlessly facing truthful answers will lead you to successful ventures.
Leaders can maximize their innovative opportunities by adding energy to their everyday work processes. You can build innovation into your tasks, relations and assessments by keeping your objectives clearly in mind.
"Inspect what you expect" are great words to lead and manage by. Keep your goals, objectives, targets, milestones and expectations in front of the group all the time.
By checking what you budgeted, planned and organized for against your actual outcomes, outputs and outpourings, you will identify problems and be better able to adjust or adapt your efforts before those challenges overwhelm your progress.
By unveiling the truth of your objectives and hopes, you are walking on the path towards innovation - you will be ‘ on-the-right-track’ to that place where you will:
=> Do your work with or on things in different ways,
=> Take more effective actions on the things that you work with or on,
=> Work with or on things with greater levels of efficiency.
"You cannot solve a problem until you acknowledge that you have one and accept responsibility for solving it" - Zig Ziglar
Leading others to think, work and contribute more innovatively means being skilled, trained and developed to exploit your energy sources, along with the practices and disciplines of innovation.
It is possible to be taught the principles and concepts of innovation. Leading a creative, evolutionary, innovative organization is our highest priority for enjoying a healthy and vibrant economy.
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. " - Antoine de Saint
Use your commitment to push our boundaries, your courage to risk a different way, and your hope to discover a better tomorrow as your guide - then lead us into that promised land.
Copyright © 2005, Mustard Seed Investments Inc. , All rights reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Thomas is author of “Leading A Creative, Evolutionary, Innovative Organization!" - an idea-packed, 2-Volume set of manuals to help you electrify, empower and infuse your leadership with scientifically-proven, evolutionary, results-producing strategies. Energize your innovation!