Don’t Innovate. Create a Culture of Innovation.

Article 1 - 4 May 2013While many organizations focus on addressing problems, the most successful focus on raising the bar. One of the ways they do this is by creating a culture where innovation thrives. When this organizational strength is magnified, it can become a source of competitive advantage.

Excellence in leading innovation has far less to do with the leader having innovative ideas; it has everything to do with how that leader creates a culture where innovation and creativity thrive in every corner.

So what are the things that leaders must do to foster innovation? Here are five strategies that make a profound difference.

1. Focus on outcomes

Innovative leaders put a great deal of effort into clearly envisioning and talking about the outcomes in a given scenario, rather than directing how those outcomes would be achieved. They don’t micromanage, nor do they abdicate. Rather, they paint a picture of the future and hold their teams accountable for how to get there. Clearly, one of the ways that innovation is cultivated is by having leaders who make sure everyone involved knows the outcome and strategic goals of any objective. By focusing on outcomes and results, these leaders free up a lot of energy for the creative process of making it happen.

2. Develop reciprocal trust

Direct reports and close colleagues often describe such leaders as protectors. Certainly consequences exist for going outside the parameters of a project, but never for trying something that didn’t work.

3. Challenge the status quo

These leaders are not afraid to challenge people higher up in the management chain. They separate issues from people and are able to disagree, without being disagreeable. Doing so cultivates tremendous respect from their colleagues.  The term “healthy creative tension” describes the atmosphere of meetings led by the innovator.

4. Be inspiring

“For innovation to exist you have to feel inspired!” Similarly, when people feel inspired by a leader they are more inclined to give more effort and go the extra mile on a project. That extra effort and commitment is often what produces innovation.

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