Cultivating a Culture of Innovation
Innovation program leaders in today’s companies are typically appointed because of their track record, or merely because they are in the right department at the right time. But do they possess the right frame of mind needed to foster sustained innovation? Innovation today requires much more than merely re-shaping a product or service into the next generation offering. To stay competitive, today’s leaders have to consider many different types and combinations of innovation, such as supply-chain, product, manufacturing, marketing, channel, social, digital and technology, just to name a few. Maintaining an open, relationship-oriented perspective towards all of the different innovation options does not come naturally to most executives. In today’s universities and companies leaders learn to be process and task oriented. They go about their siloed job functions managing daily, monthly, quarterly and annual business cycles, which is not conducive to true innovation. In fact, innovation requires systems-thinking, which is focused more on the lines between the dots, where most people are focused on the dots themselves. Uncovering hidden connections between people, companies, technologies, ideas, etc. are what bring about true disruptions in any market. However, changing an executive’s perspective on this can be one of the most challenging tasks.
Exploration is the engine that drives innovation. Innovation drives economic growth. So let’s all go exploring. – Edith Widder
When choosing leaders to head up innovation initiatives, companies can have candidates take psychometric tests that evaluate a person’s ability to think systemically and broadly, as well as the person’s social and emotional intelligence, which is very important when facilitating the integration of different parts of the business. Usually this type of leader is easy to identify – even without special tests or evaluations, because of these very skills and attributes that they possess. Another solution is to take the developmental approach, working with desired leaders who already have some of the desired skills and attributes, and helping them hone the rest, while working with them to shift perspectives that will open new ways of thinking for them. Enter Executive Coaching… Executive coaching is all about shifting perspectives, opening people’s minds to new ways of thinking, and removing limiting thoughts and emotions that can hold us back. No books or training programs can accomplish such a shift, because the shift has to come from deep inside the individual’s self-awareness. Executive coaching guides the client through a series of powerful questions and other exploratory techniques that can have a significant impact on a person’s self-awareness and emotional intelligence, while bringing awareness to those limiting beliefs. A coach can also serve as the executive’s confidante, sounding board and accountability partner throughout the many phases of the executive’s career. When key individuals and leaders learn to transition to a more innovative way of thinking, they too can begin to spread this new awareness throughout the organization. By setting up a systemic innovative coach training program where the leadership team learns to coach their direct reports on this new innovative thought process, the company is more likely to align under the new vision, and ultimately achieve a culture rooted in innovative thinking.