Are you Aiming for Innovation Leadership?
- Posted by Cris Beswick
- On 23/04/2020
Are you ready to lead an innovation-centric organisation? Now don’t tell me that you are in a position of leadership so you must be! That’s a bit like saying you got a certificate for twenty-five meters doggy paddle in school and are therefore ready to swim the channel. Leading for innovation isn’t merely a question of knowing how to stay afloat or drawing solely on tools and techniques gleaned from past business school attendance.
Don’t get me wrong; some techniques such as the ability to listen and to communicate will never go out of fashion. But when you’re looking to step your organisation up to the requirements of the post COVID-19 fourth Industrial Revolution and deliver differentiation through innovation, then the hierarchy, structure and leadership of today is not going to work.
Just take a look back at a few of the tweets which I have shared so far this year:
- The FT’s Janan Ganesh highlighting the pitfalls of running a cult of innovation,
- Steve Denning arguing that big organisations have neither the strategic focus nor the agility needed to undertake transformational innovation,
- Dr Johanna Brunneder examining the perils of great innovations disappearing in a Bermuda triangle of logistical difficulties, internal politics, and professional insecurity.
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So, when the World Economic Forum concludes that the need for vision and leadership in the manufacturing sector is clear, a comment which I would extend to all industries, then what sort of leadership are we talking about? Back to the tweets again:
- Ferry Van Halem sees leadership sitting at the heart of innovation transformation; a comment reinforced by NASDAQ 100 research which reveals innovative companies come about through strong, forward-thinking leadership,
- Scott Anthony calls on leaders to neutralise innovation blockers,
- Robert B Kaiser says the best leaders are versatile ones while Paul Taffinder calls on leaders to be willing to break the rules, albeit constructively.
The Leadership Challenge calls on people to know and understand themselves before they can lead organisations. I would argue that even when you have a strong understanding of self, you also need to have the same level of organisational understanding before instigating change. Or as a TechSPARK article which I shared in March commented ‘leading innovation starts with a clear understanding of what innovation means for your business’; an approach which was also a prime driver for the development of AIM, our innovation maturity assessment. 
So, are you innovation-fit and future-fit? Do you have not only the clear understanding required to develop an innovation transformation strategy but also the skills necessary to lead that transformation? Is it time to create new tools, techniques and approaches which will enable you to shape the future?