You can tell whether a business has innovation potential by the way it leads and its priorities; both are critical measures of innovation. The first one, leadership, I’ll focus on here.
Leading others to shape the Next Economy requires a different set of skills and attitude. I’ve met many leaders who struggle with this transition, mainly because the weight of their experience impedes them from reframing how they lead. You see, innovation is addition by subtraction, which means you have to eliminate what impedes it; and practice what does.
With that said, here are 5 ways you can better lead for innovation:
Practice self-awareness. Most people are not innovators, not because they can’t; but because they’re not motivated to do so. Knowing yourself is key, understanding that you are your own person with strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not an innovator, it’s best to recognize this and recruit those who are, clear obstacles for them and get out of the way.
Model the behavior you want to see. A leader’s job is to create a culture that drives innovation. A culture is a set of shared beliefs and behaviors, which include what you reward and penalize. For example, if you talk about taking risks but penalize risk-taking, then no one will take risks. You have to be consistent and authentic; lead with a growth mindset.
Create a safe place to fail. Your job is to create the conditions for others to be great, and that will only happen when people feel safe to express themselves without fear of repercussions. If people have to ask for permission to make things better, you reject innovation.
Bring the outside in. Innovative leaders understand that innovation is as much a matter of attitude and perspective as it is about process. They obsess about widening their perspective by bringing in a diverse group of outsiders whose perspective is not bound by what is, to help them think and develop new, surprising and radically useful ideas
Be bold. As Peter Thiel wrote in his book Zero to One, “brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in shorter supply”. Remember to always be bold. If a project makes you uncomfortable, that’s a good sign you’re on the right track.
Bottom line: Innovation is a code word for leadership.