Thursday, October 28

Innovation = Leadership? Not quite …

File:Desert Leader.jpg

Readers of earlier posts to this blog will recall that I almost always avoid using the word "innovation".  But for the purposes of this week's article let's borrow that word, along with the following definitions:

1.  "Innovation is ... balancing creativity with the discipline of making something happen"

2.  Innovation has three sequential stages:
  • Creating, elaborating and cultivating ideas
  • Sorting and filtering those ideas
  • Implementation

By these definitions, the most successful end-to-end innovators tend to exhibit a need to achieve, enormous energy, and a belief in the efficacy of their own action.

They thrive in cultures where openness and challenge are encouraged, where there’s freedom to think, act, and take risks.

To run the gauntlet of processes like the new product lifecycle there also needs to be management commitment, a clear and stable vision, and a team which collaborates and shares knowledge.

Thought-provoking, isn’t it?  And it’s even interesting if you’ve recently been reviewing documents on the subject of leadership.  The parallels are striking.

The following qualities are amongst those identified by Bob Anderson in his excellent document “Mastering Leadership”:

  • A sense of personal purpose [need to achieve?]
  • Translation of that purpose into a future vision [clear and stable vision?]
  • The leader's full commitment to that vision [management commitment?]
  • Setting stretching goals, to create energy [energy?]
  • Developing intuition to balance rational analysis [freedom to think, act, and take risks?]
  • Open (or “authentic”) dialogue [openness?  challenge?]
  • Co-operation with others [collaborates and shares knowledge?]

So we find significant overlap.  Successful innovators ought to be competent transformational leaders.  Equally, successful leaders who can harness creative resources towards their purposes should be able to innovate very effectively.

Let’s take care to detach from the word “Innovation” before closing, because this discourse has further disinclined me to adopt the word!  More useful to focus on the creativity required to generate ideas, and the leadership necessary for implementing them.

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