The DNA Of Innovation Leaders
The Six DNA Strands of Innovation Leaders
Innovation is about people; the leaders who champion, defend, drive and help to develop and organization’s innovation capability are special people indeed. However, their traits can be acquired; none were born exceptional innovation leaders, rather, many have adjusted their skills, communication styles, work disciplines and cognitive capacity to get to where they are today.
Successful innovation leaders have an above-average awareness of their strengths or weaknesses, and thus how to build teams, processes and agendas to get the most done in complex large organizations. More on Self-awareness.
#2 Eclectic experience
It may sound hackneyed, but these are Renaissance women and men. MBAs are optional. Many have enjoyed numerous seemingly disparate career facets, only to learn that their point of view or perspective can embrace many situations or many types of people. This might be called extreme common sense or super context.
Often confused with provocateurs who seek change for its own sake, successful Innovation Leaders share a deep understanding of the organization’s strategic thrust. They latch all initiatives or projects onto the strategic pulse of the business, to ensure relevancy, funding and valued outcomes.
On a cognitive level, successful innovation leaders have developed (not necessarily born with) the analytical capacity to extract trends and patterns from many requirements, trends, ideas and outcomes. This ability to see the Forest AND the Trees is extremely important for prioritization, setting directions, and often killing projects with speed when they no longer are capable of delivering on the organization’s strategy.
#5 Story telling
It may not always seem like a story is being told, but the communication style of successful innovation leaders helps associates, partners, management and colleagues to understand why innovation change is imperative, how it will or has been achieved, the risks and benefits, and the roles of all stakeholders in making progress. For many, this can be a difficult capability to develop without considerable practice.
#6 Business case ready
Successful innovation leaders rarely assume funding will be assured, resources or staffing will be granted, or that the organization understand or values the outcomes generated. Instead, these women and men relentlessly make the case for projects and initiatives with a keen eye towards jobs to be done, risks to be managed, results to be achieved, all in an easy to understand style that aligns with the organization’s strategy and value metrics.
Companies ARE NOT innovative. People are. Do not be fooled: NO CEO is the sole or top reason for innovation at a large organization. For large groups of people to mobilize to deliver large scale innovation in global organizations, the right innovation leaders “inside” are indispensable. You are one, or you may be sitting next to one. Or you may aspire to be one. Whoever you are, step up and be the next innovation leader in your organization.