”Our CEO does not want to get involved in innovation. He just let us do it by ourselves.”
There are both positives and negatives to this statement, which was shared by one of the participants at the Global Innovation Forum, when we had a brief talk.
I sensed that a key reason for this stand on innovation is that the CEO felt he had more ”important” matters to attend. This is a big negative. I don’t believe you can build a strong innovation culture and bring great products and services to market if the top executive is not involved in this.
Our guy shared a good example on this. He said that he and his colleagues had to be very resilient on their innovation initiatives as it was too easy for their managers to just stop the efforts if it did not fit the manager’s agenda. It simply becomes too easy for these managers to do what is best for them (incentives, promotions etc.) rather than focusing on what is best for the company (future positioning). There is no direction and structure for innovation.
On the other hand, it would be great if you had a CEO who could set the direction and create the right conditions and framework for innovation and then just let the organization execute as they see fit. This is actually the state of which some of the companies I currently work with are aiming to get to. A state in which you do not really talk about innovation; it just happens.
This requires a very mature organization and only very few companies get there. Thus, when you get a statement as the above it is most likely a very disturbing sign.
CEO’s and other executives cannot hide from innovation. They might not fully understand it, but they can’t hide. They must take responsibility and this often starts with themselves in the sense that they need to be educated. They must broaden their views and perspectives. Until then, it will be difficult for them to lead an innovative company.