Introduction to Innovation and Leadership
‘Innovation’ is one of the most significant words in the dictionary which is defined as ‘a creation resulting from study and experimentation’ and/or ‘the act of starting something for the first time or introducing something new’.
Innovation starts in the thinking. Thinking which is different, inquisitive, expansive, and focused. Innovation is not just creating a new and unique product. Creative thinking, creative approach, creative process, creative utilization of resources, creative cost economy, creative mining of teams’ talent and creative management would all mean innovation. In the ever growing and ever evolving business and economy ‘management innovation’ ‘leadership innovation’ and ‘business innovation’ have assumed greater significance.
The direction and purpose of innovative thinking would be different again to different people. A scientist works on a scientific innovation, a student would focus on inquisitive innovation and a businessman would think towards a unique selling proposition (USP) for his products or services.
When it comes to a leader innovation would mean several like:
A leader would start his mission with innovation in mind.
Being mission centric, leaders generally would hold consistent temperament of innovation in every walk of their pursuit. The heat or zeal within them to prove right and to prove successful would place leaders on the anvil of innovation. Leaders would mostly devote their leisure time in this direction.
A leader would raise the instincts of innovation or instil thoughts of innovation in his team:
An intuitive leader doesn’t believe in his own innovation alone. As a matter of fact leaders absorb bits and pieces of innovation from their team and give a pragmatic shape and momentum to such pieces to bring out a wholesome innovation in the context. As innovation is the result of research and study, inputs of all the relevant members would come for use in collating, analyzing, validating, and finalizing an innovation. Thus a leader would encourage innovative inputs from his team and raise the instincts of innovation in his team. Thus he would come up with collective innovation and co-creation which are more valuable and widely respected.
A leader might need to introduce innovative workarounds when he is stuck in team conflicts and resulting progress obstacles:
Team conflicts are the most difficult challenges for projects. Conflicts may arise anytime and anywhere in a project’s journey. The conflict may be between two members or among several members. The source of conflict may be obvious but the cause of conflict would not be visible. Conflicts arise owing to personality clashes. Personality is the inner side of individuals. Thus it becomes a big challenge for a leader to precisely reach to the core of the conflict in order to bring in a rapprochement. Here comes the need for an innovative handling of team members’ egos, difference of opinions, dogmatism and self-esteem.
There can never be a uniform solution in all such cases. If the cause is an ego-clash it would require a mention or clarification of the individual significances of involved members to establish that each ones role is equally honourable. Ego in a way is a virus like element. One just needs to know the antidote [which is unique for every case] to satisfy it.
If the conflict arose because of hurting someone’s self-esteem it is possible to address it through empowerment, delegation and assigning higher responsibility and/or timely recognition of team member’s contribution.
A leader needs to innovatively extricate himself from failures:
Failure is not a sin. Failure is not a failure unless one doesn’t learn from the failure. The lessons learned from failure(s) are the most valuable inputs provided they are enumerated and recorded well in the project log.
It is never correct to try to cover-up a failure or to try to undermine the result of failure.
Leadership innovation should come from making good of failures. We know that many of the scientific innovations came out successful after several failures. It is the zeal, perseverance, and the belief in the leader that can convert failure to success.
Let us take an example of a marketing campaign or a product development. Marketing campaign would never go bad unless the strategy and related efforts were inadequate. Here it is possible to make good of the failure with redrafted strategy duly incorporating the lessons learned. The only requirement is the spirit and vigor to work back for definite and quality results.
In case of a product failure the expertise placed on developing the product would be much useful if the leader can come out with a reinvention to make good of the loss. Expertise can create any number of products. The only requirement in the context would be to come out with a renewed product design or a new product design to make good of the failure.
For a true leader his mission is everything. Thus he would recognize and honour the innovation of his team members without any inhibition or prejudice. True leaders would work with the spirit of team’s success as it would naturally translate into leader’s success. Innovation makes leaders further more remarkable as it connotes out of box thinking.
Let us look forward and encourage the true spirit of innovation among younger generation who have to take up the role of tomorrows leadership.