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Innovation Leaders: Where is Your Vision and Drive?

by Stefan Lindegaard
January 15, 20131/15/13 6 Comments

Here comes a controversial statement: Many corporate innovation leaders lack the vision and drive needed to lead the innovation efforts of their companies.

This is my observation based on interactions with corporate innovation teams around the world and here you get some reasons why I think this is the case.

They do not innovate on the innovation process…

Although many companies are moving in the right direction with an increased focus on open innovation and business model innovation, I still see too many innovation leaders who are stuck because they do not develop themselves and their teams.

One key reason is that they are not experimenting (enough) with ways in which they can innovate on the innovation process itself. At times, I even meet corporate innovation teams that have not even heard about the open innovation term. This is quite shocking to me and it leads me to my next point.

They do not develop their mindset and toolbox…

Occasionally, every member of a corporate innovation team and especially the leaders need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask these two questions: Do I have the right mindset, the knowhow and the toolbox needed to lead my company’s efforts for innovation in times like this? The next question is even more important: Do I have a process that keeps me up updated on the innovation trends and practices that my company needs to embrace in order to beat the competition?

I don’t think that corporate innovators get complacent as such. They are just too busy getting things done and they do not set aside the time needed to invest in themselves. This becomes quite obvious at my sessions where I often ask how often they just sit back and reflect on the work they are doing and the challenges they face. Not many people at all have this time for reflection.

This is poor decision-making with regards to time priorization and it will hurt you in the long run.

They lack the courage to speak up…

Do you have the courage to tell the truth (and perhaps risk your job) when you can see that your company is moving in the wrong direction with your innovation efforts? Or do you just accept things are they are?

This one is difficult as corporate innovation teams often operate in organizations that are political to a lesser or higher degree. Sometimes you need a more subtle approach, but you must never lose your courage to speak up when things move in the wrong direction.

They lack communication skills and efforts…

Most corporate innovation teams that I work with buy into the idea that their key role is to facilitate in a way that helps innovation take root at the business units and to integrate external resources into the innovation process.

This is a good thing, but they do not realize the importance of communication related to these challenges. They need to have on-going conversations with internal as well as external stakeholders if they want to succeed as innovation facilitators and integrators and too many fail on this.

It would be great to hear your views on how corporate innovation teams can improve.

Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. Great post, Stefan.
    We share your view. That's one of the reasons we recommend innovation teams using the Innovation Thinking Modes model; http://strategytoolsforthenextgeneration.com/tool

    This model, and a brief introduction to it, helps teams and executives become aware of their mindset and mental models around their innovation work. Once they become aware, most realize they need to stretch, challenge and expand their mental model in order to make innovation happen.

    • Stefan Lindegaard says:

      Your model(s) look interesting. Hopefully, they will find some relevant recipients. I look forward to hearing more about this next time we meet.

  2. paul4innovating says:

    Innovation comes from the top, if there is no real engagement then where is the organizational incentive to understand innovation. I have spoken long and hard on the lack of leadership involvement in innovation.

    Jeffrey Philips and I have been offering one solution through the Executive Innovation Work Mat, just go onto our own blog sites to pick up on this or go to Innovation Excellence where they ran a weeks series on this important inhibitor to innovation.

    Role Leaders should play can be summarized as these
    1. They need to create and promote formal and informal mechanisms for managing innovation
    2. They must stop& reduce the disconnects that emerge as innovation activity loses its critical purpose of wealth creation and growth in line with strategies called for
    3. Narrow the gap between executive expectations and the delivery
    4. They have the ability to link innovation to strategy
    5. Create focus, engagement and passion required
    6. Direct funding and resources to deliver good innovation programs
    7. Speed good ideas to market as new product, services or business models
    8. Ensure defined innovation processes and metrics exist so innovation is sustainable
    9. Drive organic growth, explore new to create differentiation

    Sadly many fail to grasp these roles, let alone under what makes up open innovation

    The consequences as they don't understand the role to be filled
    1. Are unaware of the role their vision needs so as to be framed as compelling
    2. Don't understand the importance of their role in communicating and motivating
    3. Fail to engage within the organization for individuals to identify personally with
    4. Miss articulating the value, importance and benefits to both company and individuals
    5. Don't resolve the "hearts and minds" in engagement that innovation requires
    are unable to set out an overall framework for innovation and define its value creation
    6. Delegate the role to others who don't have the power or authority to execute and often compromise too readily
    7. Constrained in their role due to time pressures and competing pressures to shape, inspire and clarify linkages and synergies across the organization

    Sad, so very sad for all concerned, internally in the organization trying to do a decent days work and for all those unsuspecting shareholders that never go beyond listening to the sound bites provided by many CEO's or his immediate team.

    Lets hope we can get some awareness of this

  3. Ken Lloyd says:

    One of the problems is not having a "visual calculus" — a coherently consistent language to share ideas and notions from concepts to realizations (in many domains). Actually, this needs to be transformable into many other languages – textual, graphical, etc.

    We can't merely talk "about" our ideas and notions, but be able to describe "how they work". We have proposed a category-theoretic mathematical language the transforms the worlds of philosophy into mathematical domains. From there, creating visualizations and textual descriptions are much easier.

  4. Agree, Ken. We need to expand and develop more visual tools to create better organizations.

  5. JOSE MANUEL says:

    La innovación real solo se lleva a cabo por necesidad…
    Falta poco tiempo para que llegue la necesidad; entonces los que le dan la vuelta a los papeles en los despachos sin producir absolutamente nada se darán cuenta cuando el frío entra por la puerta: esa es la innovación.

    Un saludo