Are you more credible as an innovator?

I found this question at the bottom of an article that states that in order . See below:

The research clearly shows that “when people voice creative ideas, they are viewed by others as having less leadership potential,” says Jack Goncalo, who teaches organizational behavior at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

That may come as a surprise, since many companies claim to prize innovative thinking.

But Goncalo, who led the studies, points out that our deeply ingrained expectations of “creative people” and “effective leaders” are often at loggerheads: Creative types may be seen as mercurial and unpredictable, while leaders “are expected to reduce uncertainty and uphold the norms of the group,” he says.

That’s particularly true in times of economic uncertainty. The data suggest that, when the going gets tough, people crave the security that comes from having leaders who preserve the status quo.

This study further reinforces what we already know about instituting innovation within established organizations, that the forces of human nature are the biggest impediments to innovation.

Naturally, this is the way it’s always been. Human tendency is to prefer the familiar, so naturally people who maintain the status quo will be seen as ‘better’ than creatives. Again, this is a matter of perception. The problem is, as is often the case, in times of uncertainty there are gaps that can be exploited. Opportunities open up because there is a restructuring of the fundamental ideas of the past. Everyone is looking for a light to follow and that light is NOT ‘the same it’s always been’. This is all counter intuitive, but most things that are uncertain are.

But this doesn’t answer the question of this post: Are you more credible as an innovator?

Before answering let me point out that being creative doesn’t mean you’re innovative, although the probability of that happening is much higher than if you’re not creative. Again, this is a matter of definition. What is innovative can be different things to everybody.

So the first thing that needs to happen is the organization has to come to a collective understanding of what ‘innovation’ is to them. That can then help inform how problems are framed and ideas are presented, because if the ideas presented are not aiming at something then most likely they’re going to be shot down and you along with it. I think this is where the fundamental problem is.

Are you more credible as an innovator? If you’ve done it before and it improved/solved a problem then yes. If the ideas are just thrown out there to see what happens then you’re staying right where you are.

We all know we need to innovate continuously to stay relevant, key is making it happen and then all these issues will be kept at bay.

Thoughts?

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  • Hi Jorge, very interesting post as usual. A few things come to mind.

    1. “Leadership potential” implies somebody relatively early in their career. Here the emphasis is usually that you have to show how good you are in the business, which implies “business as usual”. Of course you can apply creativity, but it’s difficult to be right on the edge and still succeed.

    2. It may also have a lot to do with stereotypes. The image of the creative person is often that of the ad agency creative, unusual people who don’t often conform. This is fine in certain companies, but in most other large companies, there is a certain “fit” that is needed. The bare feet and Hawaiian shirt only get you so far…..

    3. In my experience the best leaders are those that change and shape organizations. You can’t do that without being creative, because you need imagination to be a great leader. So creativity is a fundamentally essential characteristic for great leaders, but far from the only one.

    4. Might this also relate back to your previous post on the difference between management and leadership? Of course you need to be creative as a great manager, but less so than a great leader.

    Kevin

  • Hi Jorge, very interesting post as usual. A few things come to mind.

    1. “Leadership potential” implies somebody relatively early in their career. Here the emphasis is usually that you have to show how good you are in the business, which implies “business as usual”. Of course you can apply creativity, but it’s difficult to be right on the edge and still succeed.

    2. It may also have a lot to do with stereotypes. The image of the creative person is often that of the ad agency creative, unusual people who don’t often conform. This is fine in certain companies, but in most other large companies, there is a certain “fit” that is needed. The bare feet and Hawaiian shirt only get you so far…..

    3. In my experience the best leaders are those that change and shape organizations. You can’t do that without being creative, because you need imagination to be a great leader. So creativity is a fundamentally essential characteristic for great leaders, but far from the only one.

    4. Might this also relate back to your previous post on the difference between management and leadership? Of course you need to be creative as a great manager, but less so than a great leader.

    Kevin

  • Hi Keith (@innovationfixer),

    Great points. I think the stereotype is the key one, just can’t get around the idea of aloofness. But I most definitely agree with you that a ‘leader’ is both creative and structured. And as you also point out it does relate to my previous post, although it wasn’t my intent. Guess this has been on my mind for a while 🙂

    Thanks for adding your thoughts and I wish you Happy Holidays.

    Cheers,

    Jorge