For Innovation: Be Idea Lead, Not Opinion Lead

Be idea lead, not opinion lead

There isn’t a day that goes by when someone doesn’t express their sorrow to me about their job. How they don’t feel empowered to do the right thing, and how every decision has to be passed by various people.

Unfortunately, this is normal.

There are people out there who care about what they do; beyond the paycheck. These people are all in, want to make things better. But hierarchy, the type that impedes progress, has a way of making people feel miserable in their job.

This type of hierarchy, and leadership, doesn’t trust people to make decisions without their consent; it drives a culture that aims to avoid mistakes. Fear ensues, with more focus placed on short-term bets than on long-term opportunities. This isn’t an environment that is conducive to creativity, much less innovation. As we’ve talked about before, mistakes are part of doing original work.

Innovation has many enemies. Being opinion lead, usually by higher-ups, is a sure way to know why innovation dies inside organizations before it has a chance to breathe; because people naturally stop proposing ideas when higher-ups block or disregard them.

As I wrote a few days ago, if you truly want to empower people then get out of their way. How do you achieve this?

As I’ve explained before, there are several factors that drive innovation in an organization. One of them is leadership support. Innovative leaders know that you can’t mandate innovation, you unleash it. They also understand that a culture of innovation is one where ideas come from everywhere. Their job is to create the conditions for those ideas to become mature and powerful; underpinning this is trust.

When there’s trust, there’s a willingness to challenge the status quo. To think and act differently, with purpose and conviction. I believe in moving with speed and conviction, rathen than slow and tentative. As they say, fortune favors the bold.

This attitude is what creates enthusiasm; a very powerful catalyst for innovation. It’s a leader’s job to make sure it never dies, understanding that lack of progress kills people’s enthusiasm. So follow this principle if you’re truly committed to innovation: Be idea lead, not opinion lead. The best idea wins; doesn’t matter where it comes from.

Remember: When trust exists, ideas trump hierarchy.