Tag Archives: how to be a more creative leader

How Strong Leadership Drives Innovation

leadershipandinnovationAs a final component to our series of posts on the subject of innovation, today’s post focuses on the critically-important role of leadership. Given the challenges of creating a consistently effective innovative organization, nothing is more important than leadership, which is required to empower and unleash an organization’s creative talents and energy.

An innovative culture is not the default position — it must be carefully created. But empowerment, important as that is, is nowhere near enough. Leadership must also create a challenging vision around which to rally the organization’s creative energies. This vision must be grounded in a deep understanding of the market and of the daily struggles of the people who make up that market — i.e., the market’s needs.

In addition, understanding the market is much easier for a small company where everyone deals with real customer needs every day. But as organizations grow, they expand like a balloon — more mass and less surface area. The surface area has the chance to get close to the external customer’s needs, but leadership must maintain or create a mechanism that will ensure that an understanding of the customer’s needs can penetrate beyond the surface area into the heart of the organization.

The same is true of internal functions that work together like a chain of customers. As organizations grow, departments grow and they too develop ‘more mass and less surface area’ — creating the familiar silo phenomenon.

Finally, leadership of innovative organizations must, without stifling creativity, challenge the organization’s efforts with the necessary, market-driven constraints.

Without the right constraints, empowerment cannot succeed. It is too easy to become satisfied with a creative idea before it has been developed into something really workable. An organization that tries to empower innovation without creating the right market-driven constraints, can easily suffocate in an avalanche of incomplete or impractical ideas.

This is a tall order, and it becomes easy to see why innovation isn’t easier to come by despite all the human talent and energy brought to bear. But creating an innovative culture is, in itself, a creative challenge. By increasing our understanding of the challenges and constraints, we increase our ability to focus our own leadership talents on the right things to make it happen.

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Too Much or Too Little Time Can be a Barrier to Innovation

timetoolittleortoomuchContinuing our theme of identifying barriers to innovation, our experience and research into the subject has surfaced some paradoxical observations.

For example, organizations may give innovation too little time, or too much time!

Many organizations cite the lack of time and attention to innovation as a major barrier. People are too busy to think about innovation.

“If my boss’s boss is too busy to think about new and better ways of doing something, I better be too.”

This is a good recipe for keeping things exactly the way they are while the world passes by.

But dedicating resources to innovation does not seem to work that well, either. It may foster a creative environment, but this does not necessarily translate into more workable innovations.

One organization created an innovative think tank with 12-14 people led by a senior executive. After two years they were disbanded because while they came up with some innovative ideas, none of them were financially viable.

Similarly, Xerox created an inventor’s paradise, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), assembled incredible talent, big budgets, and freedom from oversight by senior management back East. They envisioned a great number of wonderful things, but that did not enable them to bring these visions or prototypes to market. In fact, many of their greatest ideas were brought to fruition by other companies.

What has your organization discovered with respect to allocating the “right” amount of time to innovative thought?

5 Creativity Boosters for CI Leaders

boxIn a recent post we shared perspective on “creativity” being among the traits of a good CI Leader, and how creativity is often the driving force behind innovation and change.

In that post we also shared five “creativity killers,” which CI leaders should avoid.

In contrast, a recent article posted on Inc.com focused on ways to enhance our creativity. “Often ten minutes is all you need to kick start your brain and wildly increase the likelihood of a breakthrough,” states author Jessica Stillman, a freelance writer based in Cyprus with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work.

Stillman also shared the following list of creativity boosters:

  1. Doodle
  2. Pause & Move
  3. Channel your inner kid
  4. The 30 Circles Test
  5. Write Some Flash Fiction

Read the full article…