Innovation Strategy Models Need Innovative Leadership Guides

Bill Thomas

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Innovation strategy models usually follow this uninspired recipe - let's encourage employee ideas, throw together a business case,

justify the costs and operating budget, dish-up a marketing strategy and production project plan, hope for the best.

There are other organizations who believe in innovation strategies which heavily depend on setting up and managing arrangements, special relationships or partnerships with their supplier community. I am not trying to find fault with those methods, however, my argument is with those who are supposed to act as the agents of innovative leadership.

What is the purpose of an innovation strategy? We innovate to take advantage of the opportunities caused by change. For example, prayer is a strategy we use to cope with our personal challenges. And "prayer", as philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard so aptly observed, "does not change God, but it changes him who prays. "

Simply stated, it is not the strategy that changes, it is we who change as we employ our strategy and use it to encourage, energize, enlighten and engage ourselves to strive for achieving its objectives. In a word, our innovation strategies can not be expected to change the world, our strategy must compel us to change the ways we think about, react to and perform in the world.

"Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable. " - William Pollard

Innovative Leadership Guide-1: Thinking through your innovation strategy model

"Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure. " - Albert Einstein

Your innovation strategy model must enable you to execute four essential tasks:

  1. It has to help you recognize the components of a changing landscape [explore],

  2. It must expose you to the needs imposed upon your ecosystems by the change [create]

  3. It should usher you through the changes you hope to exploit [ implement],

  4. It must empower you to adapt to the changes in your marketplace and your offering [supervise].

Innovative leadership means finding clearly defined pathways through the territories you operate within - this includes the environments of your organization, partners, markets and end-customers. Innovative leaders channel or direct the shared, received and transmitted energies found in their ecosystems of profound knowledge, work processes and social relationships.

Innovation leadership uses the innovation strategy model as a guide towards:

    1) Directing innovative activities;

    2) Developing crucial systems, resources and assets;

    3) Disciplining the process, purpose and players of innovation

Innovative Leadership Guide-2: Reacting to your innovation strategy model

Your innovative leadership team uses the innovation strategy model to tweak, adjust and maintain its course towards successful outcomes. The most effective strategy models provide leaders with:

  • Windows on historical, internal and external circumstance [Realities];

  • Mechanisms to control and adjust to changes [Dynamic Controls]

  • Applications of energy to inspire, relieve and educate [ Leadership];

  • Metrics which expose exchanges, dependencies and transfers [Ecosystem Management];

  • Revelations of beliefs, meanings and feelings [ Coordinated Communications];

  • Relationships between the observed, measured and assumed [Progress Dashboards];

  • Opportunity “areas" where the strategy can be executed [ Organic Leveraging].

"Cast aside those who liken godliness to whimsy and who try to combine their greed for wealth with their desire for a happy afterlife. " - Kahlil Gibran

If your innovation strategy model depends on a “kiss from the muse", a “bright idea" and some similar “eureka" experience, you'll have very few and far between innovations emerging from your organization.

Innovative Leadership Guide-3: Performing on the promises of an innovation strategy model

"Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time. " - Bill Gates

Back in the Industrial Age, we followed a series of steps, made use of equipment and mechanized systems and relied on prodigious amounts of fiscal and human capital to achieve the promises of success. We may live in a different era, I call it, the Imagination Economy, yet we need the same amounts of effort and focus to realize our goals.

A few years ago, our competitive advantages were based upon our ability to shape raw information into forms of relevant, applicable knowledge. Today, we compete against the imaginations of others - we have to slice and dice knowledge and blend it with universal wisdom, intuitive know-how and meaningful what-ifs to produce sustainable, profitable, productive innovations.

In the Imagination Age, innovative leadership will be called upon to map-out the complexities, model optimal congruencies and mold evolutionary conceptualizations of our world. Leaders will meet the many challenges of this new Age by seeing people as four dimensional beings - that is, as physical, intellectual, spiritual and developmental entities.

Innovative leadership will use their innovation strategy models to fully exploit and leverage the many strengths of their available human capital assets - intellectual and physical assets [think and do], production and social assets [process and interact], as well as, innovative and developmental assets [learn and imagine].

"Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth. " - Peter F. Drucker

A model for your innovation strategies is an essential ingredient in your organization's competitive recipe - without such a model, your business will lack the flavor of innovating. Your customers, constituents and communities may begin to perceive the staleness of your old, crumbling offerings and stop putting your products on their shelves.

You need to mix together all the elements of an innovation strategy model listed above and use these innovative leadership guidelines to manage and energize your strategy. Innovation is industry and it requires persistent, determined effort. And just like the industries of old, innovation can follow a process, it can use capital assets, it can be measured or assessed and it can be led and managed.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead were there is no path and leave a trail. " - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Copyright © 2006, Mustard Seed Investments Inc. , All rights reserved.

Bill Thomas develops innovative leaders and helps them design innovation strategy models for success in the Imagination Age - his books, manuals, Executive Briefings, software, speeches and training programs define sustainable innovation processes and empower leaders to produce measurably powerful results! Learn “How to Energize Your Innovative Leadership Power and Model Your Winning Innovation Strategy!"


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