When it happens, innovation isn’t an accident. Why? Because of leadership. Leadership is another code word for innovation. Sure, teams innovate; they do the work. But, leaders drive and enable people to do their best work. Show me an innovative organization and I’ll show you a great leader behind it that created a culture that enables it to outperform consistently.
Great leaders understand that you have to drive disruption or be disrupted. They don’t wait for the competition to drive them to innovate, rather they have their own sense of urgency to drive it. With that said, how do these innovative leaders drive innovation in their business?
Here are five ways that a leader can drive innovation in their business:
- Enable a culture of innovation: Create an environment where employees feel empowered to share their ideas and take risks. This may involve encouraging open communication and collaboration, and providing resources and support for employees to pursue innovative projects.
- Foster a growth mindset: Encourage employees to embrace challenges and see failures as opportunities to learn and grow. This can help to create an environment where innovation is encouraged and supported. Leaders drive innovation by making it safe for people to make mistakes and learn from them.
- Encourage continuous learning: A culture of innovation is a culture of learning. Provide opportunities for employees to learn and develop new skills. This can help to foster a culture of innovation by providing employees with the tools and knowledge they need to come up with new ideas and solutions.
- Encourage experimentation and iteration: There is no innovation without experimentation. Encourage employees to try new things and be willing to iterate and refine their ideas. This can help to create a culture of continuous improvement and drive innovation.
- Foster a customer-centric focus: Encourage employees to focus on solving problems and meeting the needs of customers. This can help to drive innovation by ensuring that the business is constantly looking for ways to improve products and services.
- Challenge: People need to be engaged with their work, that means having bold goals but also assigning the right person to the right project.
- Freedom: Companies should define goals but let employees have some autonomy in how to get there. Basically, let people figure out the right path forward and not get in their way.
- Resources: Too little time or money can dampen creativity at work.
- Work-Group Features: A safe way to kill creativity is to encourage homogeneous teams. These groups will find incremental solutions, not bold ideas that break from precedent. For that you need a diverse group of people who don’t view the world the same way.
- Supervisory Encouragement: Support and recognition for trying by higher ups and colleagues is essential for creative work.
- Organizational Support: Companies that mandate information sharing and collaboration while discouraging politics will see creativity thrive.
Leaders that want to build an organization that innovates consistently must provide bold goals, get out of the way and reward people for trying.
Bottom line: Leadership is the keystone of innovation.