Leading for Innovation
Leadership Coach, Front of Room Leader and Systemic Change Guide
The image depicts a Venn diagramme with the ingredients for leading for innovation. Where its 3 circles overlap it reads: "A sense of Community". The top circle reads: Purpose. Why we exist. The right bottom circle reads: Rules of Engagement. How we interact with one another and think about problems. The left bottom circle reads: Shared Values. What we agree is important.

What to expect from the resource.

We all admire companies which can innovate again and again.  And you might wonder how they’re doing it. How are they so successfully leading for innovation? That’s what Linda Hill and her colleagues set out to understand. To that end, they studied 16 leaders across 7 countries and 12 industries for 10 years. Some of these companies are the usual suspects, like Pixar and google. So you might wonder what you can learn from them for your bank or your car manufacturing company. The good news is that Hill also studied lesser known companies: an Islamic bank in Dubai, an NGO in South Africa, an outsourcing company in India. She also collected data from a well known German carmaker. In her TED Talk, Hill shares findings and actionable insights from her research, and here’s her key insight:

Effectively leading for innovation looks different to effectively leading in general.

In a nutshell: Innovation leaders don’t create a vision and then direct others to bring it to life. Instead they create an environment that enables innovation.

That environment has three characteristics:

– Creative abrasion

– Creative agility, and

– Creative resolution.

What we love about this resource.

First, this is action research. Hill does not talk about statistics and surveys. Instead, she has observed exceptional leaders for almost 10 years. She has spent hundreds of hours on site with them and their teams. Thus she can share examples of how these leaders set the stage for ongoing innovation.

Second, we appreciate the diversity of her research objects. Hill goes beyond the usual suspects, like the creative sector, the US, or white men. She literally takes us around the world, to Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Why it matters to leadership in organisations.

The common approach to change is that leadership teams launch big initiatives. They try to innovate new ways of organising top down. And they try to introduce new processes top down.

But as Hill points out: Launching top down change initiatives can only work in simple, predictable environments. Yet it does not work in complex and unpredictable environments. Which is pretty much every organisation’s environment today! Today, all leaders have to innovate, to create something entirely new. And you cannot plan innovation, precisely because it is new and so you can’t know what it will look like.

To stay in business, organisations need leaders who are up to leading for innovation. Leaders who can harness the collective genius of their people. Leaders who see themselves as social architects who don’t know the path forward. And they don’t need to know. Instead, they need to be able to create environments for collective genius to rise.

For leadership coaching and developement, get in touch

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