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MicroLearning Leadership

Innovation has nothing to do with how many R & D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R & D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.
– Steve Jobs, Innovative Genius

This month’s MicroLearning Leadership is centering on Innovation. I know you’ve read the research about corporate growth coming out of the Innovation of products, services, and technology. In fact, your career advancement will suffer if you don’t spend a substantial portion of your week on Innovation.

innovationDid you know, that most executives confess they don’t have a handle on Innovation? Not surprising as 65 percent of senior executives surveyed by McKinsey & Company were only “somewhat,” “a little,” or “not at all” confident about the decisions they make in this area. This disclosure presents a predicament when 70 percent of senior executives indicate innovation will be at least one of the top three drivers for growth for their company.

Would your response have been similar?

Yes, Innovation is complex; and yes, Innovation is essential to the success of your organization; and yes, it isn’t easy to manage in today’s overloaded work environment, but this doesn’t mean you can abdicate.

If you manage people, they look to you as the role model of both attitude and behavior; and never more than in regards to innovative action. So,

  • Send a Strong Message: No small matter, when your company is measuring your activities based on quarter-to-quarter results; however, if your role doesn’t also include a focus on long-range projects, your organization is in trouble long-term. Examine your calendar: what percentage of time do you spend on your short-term projects? Now, consider how much time you expend on those projects which don’t remedy today’s issues, but will pay off in the future. With these percentages in hand, you now know what you role model to your staff. Have you discovered you need to shift your behavior and your dialogue to demonstrate the importance of Innovation?
  • Encourage Curiosity: Innovation is often shut-down because of unwitting groupthink. Charles Nemeth, professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, some years ago instructed one team that: “Most research and advice suggest that the best way to come up with good solutions is to come up with many solutions. Freewheeling is welcome; don’t be afraid to say anything that comes to mind. However, in addition, most studies suggest that you should debate and even criticize each other’s ideas.” The results were amazing. Teams given the debate instructions were the most creative—they came up with 20 percent more ideas! How good have you been at establishing an environment where asking questions and challenging the status quo is encouraged? If everyone is in agreement with the ideas on the table, you’re in trouble. Start asking: If you can imagine or envision a reason this is not a good solution, what would it be? Or assign a member of your staff to assume the contrarian position.
  • Promote the Setting: You stifle Innovation by setting too many rules for problem-solving, instilling tight time constraints, micromanaging the process, critiquing ideas too early, and so much more. So, analyze the environment you’re generating. As the leader set the stage for Innovation to thrive by allowing plenty of time, never settle for one answer and be open to all ideas—particularly the wild, contentious ones!

Innovation emerges out of the collaborative creative energy of your team. As a leader, it is your responsibility to establish Innovation as a job requisite for everyone and then shape the environment for it to flourish.

After reading the remainder of the article, I’m looking forward to hearing the questions that come out of this month’s MicroLearning Leadership on Innovation. Send them my way, and I’ll respond later this month.

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