How do you become an innovative leader?
Here are 10 leadership ideas worth spreading from TED talks...
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Today’s organizational leaders are facing accelerating rates of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, all of which are showing no signs of slowing down. Whether it is the continuing digital revolution or expanding global markets, our current environment requires a constant state of innovation. For companies to continue succeeding, next generation leaders must be able to handle any curve ball thrown their way. Leading through this new business environment requires the capability to sense and respond to changes in the business environment with actions that are focused, fast and flexible. The best way to put it: next generation leaders have to be agile.
Now, the question becomes, what does leadership agility look like? Next gen leaders must be able to proficiently move, change and evolve the organization. Agile leaders are creative thinkers with a deep sense of purpose. They show a propensity and ability to move into action and make decisions, and their implementation often results in greater learning. Agile leaders actively engage diverse stakeholders, influencing and studying them simultaneously. This individual is not an average employee; they “seek pain to learn.” Agile individuals are motivated by expanding their knowledge, questioning the status quo, and actively migrate towards challenges. They thrive off of solving the difficult problems within the organization, as they believe it mutually benefits themself and the company. They enjoy getting through in the deep end of the worst problems.
Sure. This sounds like every executive’s dream employee. However, the conundrum is that very few professionals possess this rare business acumen. We would estimate that only about 10 percent of today’s employees having the appropriate levels of “leadership agility” that is needed; seeking out this particular individual from a pool of candidates is no easy task.
One comprehensive way to look at it is in the diagram below by Nick Horney and Tom O’Shea from Agility Consulting with co-author Bill Pasmore from the Centre for Creative Leadership. They argue that for agility to become a strategic asset to the organization, the proposed leader must have traits of both High Agility and High Performance. They have the ability to take on major assignments in a variety of departments. They anticipate and take action, pushing through and leading the trends that change and impact the organization. While ideally this would be a leader already within an organization, it is often not the case. A leader may focus more heavily on performance, or contrarily have greater agility. In some industries and firms, high performance is all that is needed and agility is not called for. However, in our experience, this is less and less the norm.
We believe that with the guidance of top executives, agile leaders can be developed internally. By identifying and developing high-potential talent, businesses can improve responsiveness to company and marketplace shifts and thereby their ability to deliver strategic priorities. Having an agile leader on the team takes the company from good to great. These individuals are focused, confident and driven to lead. While they may be hard to come by, taking the time to seek them out is worth your while.
How do you keep ahead of your competitors in a world where nothing stays the same for more than a moment? How do you get a workforce and a company to shift directions fast to face a future that is almost unknowable? Here are reports and answers from some of the best thinkers out there...
Today we’re adding a breath of inspiration to the whirlwind of information about how innovation should be managed in the organization. Caspar van Rijnbach provides twelve suggestions of what an innovative leader should be. Do you have more to contribute?
Be broad-minded: Innovation is not only about products or technology, the most profitable innovations are most often not in these areas, but in finance, business models, services and new businesses. See how you can innovate to receive faster, improve cash flow, or enhance the sales of your current products (besides just pushing your sales people to sell more);
His saga is the entrepreneurial creation myth writ large: Steve Jobs cofounded Apple in his parents’ garage in 1976, was ousted in 1985, returned to rescue it from near bankruptcy in 1997, and by the time he died, in October 2011, had built it into the world’s most valuable company. Along the way he helped to transform seven industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, retail stores, and digital publishing. He thus belongs in the pantheon of America’s great innovators, along with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney. None of these men was a saint, but long after their personalities are forgotten, history will remember how they applied imagination to technology and business.
In the months since my biography of Jobs came out, countless commentators have tried to draw management lessons from it. Some of those readers have been insightful, but I think that many of them (especially those with no experience in entrepreneurship) fixate too much on the rough edges of his personality. The essence of Jobs, I think, is that his personality was integral to his way of doing business. He acted as if the normal rules didn’t apply to him, and the passion, intensity, and extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made. His petulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.
One of the last times I saw him, after I had finished writing most of the book, I asked him again about his tendency to be rough on people. “Look at the results,” he replied. “These are all smart people I work with, and any of them could get a top job at another place if they were truly feeling brutalized. But they don’t.” Then he paused for a few moments and said, almost wistfully, “And we got some amazing things done.” Indeed, he and Apple had had a string of hits over the past dozen years that was greater than that of any other innovative company in modern times: iMac, iPod, iPod nano, iTunes Store, Apple Stores, MacBook, iPhone, iPad, App Store, OS X Lion—not to mention every Pixar film. And as he battled his final illness, Jobs was surrounded by an intensely loyal cadre of colleagues who had been inspired by him for years and a very loving wife, sister, and four children.
So I think the real lessons from Steve Jobs have to be drawn from looking at what he actually accomplished. I once asked him what he thought was his most important creation, thinking he would answer the iPad or the Macintosh. Instead he said it was Apple the company. Making an enduring company, he said, was both far harder and more important than making a great product. How did he do it? Business schools will be studying that question a century from now. Here are what I consider the keys to his success...
It’s a new year, a new blog, and a new set of predictions to set goals and expectations for 2012.
I won’t bother you with the top 10 emerging social networks or apps to focus time and resources. Nor will I gaze in the crystal ball to reveal the five secrets to viral marketing and user/customer acquisition. Instead of adding my forecasts to the endless sea of debatable prophesies, I chose a more aspirational path.
2012 is the year of transformation as digital Darwinism threatens rigid and traditional practices everywhere. Regardless of industry, digital Darwinism is a phenomenon when technology and society evolve faster than the ability to adapt.
Indeed, this is a time when organizations will invest in change to better adapt to emerging market opportunities, to more successfully engage with customers, employees and stakeholders, rethink systems and processes, and ultimately, revive the company’s vision, mission and purpose. The result is an adaptive culture that signals an end to business as usual. Without doing so only expedites the inevitable journey towards irrelevance. For 2012 and beyond, the following trends serve as beacons for not only survival, but leadership.
Leadership: As technology continues to evolve & permeate work and life, behavior, expectations and communication evolve. Someone must look ahead, see where we need to go and lead the way to relevance. Leadership is something that must be earned. Without a top-down charter toward a direction everyone can march behind, leadership is relegated to operational management. In the age of empowerment, those who march blindly will follow a path not unlike what Steve Jobs envisioned in the infamous Apple Lemmings commercial.
Vision: The stated outlook of organizational direction needs review. When’s the last time you read your company’s vision or mission statement? If you did read it recently, would you Tweet it proudly? In a time when brands are not created, but instead co-created, if vision is unclear or underwhelming, alignment, community and camaraderie will prove elusive.
Strategy: With new media and emerging technology creating a groundswell of customer empowerment, new strategies must focus on the alignment of objectives with meaningful experiences and outcomes. All too often, emerging technology is confused with either disruptive technology or that of traditional marketing. Far too much emphasis, budget, and time is placed in new media channels without an understanding of why or what it is that customers expect or appreciate.
Culture: This is a time of change, which requires coalescence and solidarity. We can’t change if the culture is rigid or risk averse. We can’t innovate if those who experiment are not supported. Organizations need to focus on cultivating a culture of adaptation rooted in customer- and employee-centricity and more importantly, empowerment. Culture is everything. It is and should be intentional. It should be designed. Those companies that invest in the development of an adaptive culture will realize improved relationships that contribute to competitive advantages.
People: The 5th P of the marketing mix, “People,” will take center stage. Organizations that embrace the spirit of intrepreneurialism will empower employees to experiment through failure and success to improve engagement and morale. And, by embracing customers, insights will inspire relevant products, services and processes.
Innovation: The ability to recognize new opportunities is perhaps the greatest challenge rivaled only by the ability to execute. Emerging and disruptive technology is now part of the business landscape and customer lifestyle. Innovation, trends, and hype is not going to stop. In fact, it will only amplify. The capacity to identify and consider new solutions and responses is critical. It must be supported by innovative collaboration and decision-making processes and systems to assess and react. Innovation must be perpetual.
Influence: Digital influence is becoming prominent in social networks, turning everyday consumers into new influentials. As a result, a new customer hierarchy is developing forcing businesses to identify and engage to those who rank higher than others. There is no future in any business model that is cemented in reactive engagement. Organizations should identify and engage all connected customers to extend reach outside of problems. Businesses must engage when touchpoints emerge, during decision-making cycles, when positive experiences are shared, or to proactively feed the results who search for insight and direction. Contributing value to people and investing time and energy into networks of relevance will also earn any organization a position of equal or greater influence.
Localization: For global organizations hoping to connect with customers around the world, localization & contextualization are king in any engagement strategy. This is also true for any engagement strategy regardless of local. Many companies are jumping on every bandwagon imaginable, syndicating content, thinning resources, and investing no more in each network than what’s necessary to maintain a pulse. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube, Foursquare, Instagram, Pinterest, Quora become broadcast channels for one-to-many strategies and programs that do very little for cultivating dedicated and engaged communities.
Intelligence: One of the biggest trends in 2011 was the development of social media command centers. At the heart of these sophisticated data gathering silos were conversations and tools that allowed community managers to listen, respond, and promote engagement within the company. While social media is introducing the art & science of monitoring to marketing and service teams it is the organizations that invest in technology, teams and processes that will translate activity into actionable insights.
Philanthropic Capitalism: Customers expect values to match their own core values. What used to be a necessary checklist of community focus, such as corporate social responsibility or CSR is now rebooted. Philanthropic capitalism is a business model where companies contribute to worthwhile causes on behalf of customers as part of the transaction. Additionally, customers are expressing that they will also invest in companies where employees are “treated well,” pledging trust and loyalty as a result. The empathetic business model on the horizon requires charitable and sustainable decisions as part of everyday business where customers naturally become stakeholders.
These pillars will serve as the foundation for an adaptable business model where opportunities are readily assessed and innovation is regularly practiced. The reward is relevance, affinity and advocacy. As Leon C. Megginson once said in paraphrasing Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
Simon Sinek presents a simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers -- and as a counterpoint Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.
Fortune sat down with Randy MacDonald, IBM's worldwide HR czar, to learn how the company trains global leaders.
This article is from the November 21, 2011 issue of Fortune.
Most people think innovation is all about ideas, when in fact it is more about delivery, people, and process.
Entrepreneurs looking to innovate need to understand the execution challenge if they expect their startup to carve out a profitable niche in the marketplace, and keep innovating to build and maintain a sustainable competitive advantage.
Everyone thinks they know how to make innovation happen, but I can’t find much real research on the subject. At the same time, myths about innovation are commonplace in business. Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, in their book “The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge” have done the best recent research I have seen on this subject.
They take you step-by-step through the innovation execution process, in the context the ten most common myths about innovation, which I think makes their approach particularly instructive: ...
The reason innovation requires leadership is that the person or team with a good new idea or clever new design starts out as the only ones who really “get it.” Their insight and enthusiasm will blink out after a while, and nothing new will actually get implemented, unless they exercise some real leadership. They have to spread the word, line up support, overcome skepticism, and generally act like focused, skilled leaders. Otherwise, their innovation does not stand a chance.
Innovation is, in my book, quite simply a fertile union of creativity and leadership. Thus you might say that the term ‘innovative leadership’ is redundant and all leadership is innovative. That assumes people in leadership roles really are leading, as in visualizing the new and better and moving us in their direction. Sadly, real world leadership is more prosaic, and less innovative. In fact, in almost every survey ever done on the topic, employees say that their leaders are holding them back, not drawing them ahead, in the quest of innovation.
So, there seems to be a need to focus on leaders and their role in innovation, especially at a time when the only thing everyone, at all ends of the political spectrum, agrees upon is that we ought to be innovating out way of our half-hearted economic recovery. What, then, is an innovative leader? And, more to the point, how can the many people holding leadership positions begin to tip their weight forward a bit more, and encourage the rest of us to innovative our way out of this economic funk?
Which side of the leadership coin are you on?
To define an innovative leader, we need...
Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers ...
In 2009, Simon Sinek released the book "Start With Why" -- a synopsis of the theory he has begun using to teach others how to become effective leaders and inspire change.
Today’s and tomorrow’s leaders are more and more facing cross-cultural challenges caused by globalization, emerging economies and new markets. How to notice differences in cultures? How to understand their impact on people behavior and performance? How to avoid cross-cultural friction and conflict? How to lead people and teams with different cultural backgrounds? How to create successful collaboration and teamwork cross-border? Effectively dealing with cross-cultural challenges like these is rapidly becoming one of the key differentiators for effective leaders and successful companies.
The cross-cultural business environment is creating a fundamental mind shift: the ‘soft’ side of business (culture, people, teamwork, etc.) is turning out to be a very ‘hard’ element in creating business success. Mastering the essence of people alignment is a crucial competence for today’s leaders.
What differentiates leaders that master the essence of people alignment? Over the years I have worked with many leaders in many different cultures and I’ve identified two important elements in the behavior of successful leaders. First of all, they do not perceive creating people alignment as an activity next to all the other leadership activities, but it is on their mind in everything they do. Secondly, they understand that their ability to align people depends on the extent to which they create personal alignment with respect to the environment where they operate.
Personal alignment is about understanding yourself. It is about being in balance with the inter-cultural environment where you find yourself. It is about being able to explain and show others where you stand within this environment of cultural differences and why. It creates trust, transparency, and confidence. The impact of a lack of personal alignment on your leadership behavior and on the organization is direct and significant. Creating people alignment starts with having a sufficient level of personal alignment. Especially in cross-cultural environments personal alignment can be challenged easily. Successful leaders are aware when personal misalignment occurs, and they pay special attention to fixing it.
How can you spot potential areas of personal misalignment in cross-cultural environments? How to create your personal ‘leadership compass’ that guides you to potential weak spots in your personal alignment? The following questions might help you in building your compass:
What are my core qualities? How do I use these in my work as a leader? How do they fit the inter-cultural challenges that I face? How do they support my cross-cultural effectiveness?
The Part 2 of this series will talk about a next important level of cross-cultural alignment: team alignment...
Customers don’t want drills: they want holes.
Customers don’t want MP3 players: they want music.
Customers don’t want trains: they want to get from here to there.
Customers don’t want computers: they want solutions.
Patients don’t want drugs: they want better health outcomes.
These fundamental principles of business were underlined to big pharma in an interesting recent article on Forbes from Dave Chase, CEO of Patient Portal & Relationship Management company, Avado.com. IBM’s Reinvention Should Inspire Flat Pharma Businesses.
He writes: “The handwriting is on the wall for pharma companies: They will succeed or fail based not on how many drugs they sell, but on how well their offerings improve health outcomes… Looking at the 10-year stock charts of these organizations you see flat or declining stock prices. It’s quite clear that reinvention has yet to happen for virtually all of the Life Science companies… Do pharmaceutical companies see themselves in the drug business or the disease management business? Or, where possible, in the disease prevention business? These are the key questions that will determine whether they will survive and thrive.”
While big pharma continues to pursue the nirvana of the blockbuster drugs like Pfizer’s [PFE] Lipitor with wide application, the future may lie elsewhere. Instead of blockbuster drugs, the future may lie through other paths that lead to better outcomes for patients, often at lower cost.
What big companies often miss with disruptive innovation is the possibility of reaching a much larger number of customers. The margins may be smaller, but the market is much larger. Instead of trying to invent a high-value drug that meets the needs of a small number of patients with a particular disease, there are much larger potential gains from reaching huge numbers of people with a slimmer margin of a low-cost solution.
“Many of these diseases lend themselves to applications (mobile & web) or biometric devices,” writes Chase. “This is going to drive a greatly expanded focus on non-traditional partnerships…. Most pharma companies are where computer makers were in the late 80′s: the handwriting on the wall is clear but pharma is still mainly focused on milking the cash cows just as DEC, Data General, Wang were in the 80′s. We know how that turned out.”
“With ever-increasing requirements to run healthcare more efficiently and providers who often don’t possess the skills to address new reimbursement outcomes requirements, technology-enabled services are going to become more common. Purveyors of technology-enabled services don’t sell technology. Instead, they are selling an outcome.”
Examples of improved customer outcomes
Telehealth: Providing more and more services remotely by providing the tools and services to manage conditions remotely This is already happening behavioral health.
How IBM survived
When Gerstner came to IBM in 1993, IBM was losing money in massive quantitites. His predecessor, John Akers, had decided to split up IBM into its component parts. Gerstner had the good sense to start listening to clients. He discovered that the biggest problem that all the big companies were facing in 1993 was in integrating all the separate computing technologies that were emerging at the time.
So while continuing to cut costs, Gerstner reversed his predecessor’s decision move to spin off IBM business units into separate companies. Having understood IBM’s customers, he recognized that one of IBM’s greatest strengths was its ability to provide integrated solutions for customers – a firm that could represent more than piece parts or components—something he would not have learned by listening to the proponents of different technologies within IBM. Splitting the company would have destroyed IBM’s unique competitive advantage.
The key to long-term survival: outside-in
The thrust of Gulati’s marvelous book is that in today’s white-water world of rapid change and massively enhanced customer power, the only road to resilience is, like Gerstner at IBM, adopting an outside-in perspective by solving clients’ most pressing problems or finding unexpected ways to delight them.
Delighting clients is not enough
The other aspects of radical management—the shift in the role of managers from controller to enabler, the shift in coordinating work from bureaucracy to dynamic linking, the shift in values from efficiency to values that will grow the firm and the shift from commands to conversation—are necessary changes to support the goal of delighting customers.
IBM adapted but didn’t learn
Gerstner saved IBM by a strategic master-stroke i.e. guiding the firm to a competition-free “blue ocean” where its steep, lumbering bureaucracy would not be the crippling handicap that it was in its existing businesses.
While Gerstner made the critical strategic decision in 1993 that saved the firm by listening to the clients, it was a single, one-shot decision. It didn’t cure the underlying disease: the inside-out mindset of a bureaucracy. The steep, lumbering hierarchy remained. Gerstner saved IBM but he didn’t institutionalize listening to clients as the driving force of IBM’s culture.
The inside-out perspective persists at IBM
“IBM is a values-based enterprise of individuals who create and apply technology to make the world better.”
Here, there is no explicit mention of the customers or clients. The statement reflects the fact that the customers and clients are still not front and center in IBM’s thinking. In effect, IBM has still not succeeded in institutionalizing listening to its clients and customers as the central thrust of its culture.
Nevertheless, as in most big organizations today, there are parts of IBM in which radical management is flourishing, such as the Quality Software Engineering group at IBM which is responsible for software development processes and practices across the company.
Just as the future of IBM will depend on how far they are able to shift the formal focus to the customers and transform their management systems from traditional command-and-control bureaucracy to the more agile 21st Century radical management, so the future of big pharma will depend on making a similar shift and make the outcomes for patients a central pre-occupation of everyone in their firms.
A more open and transparent world challenge us to rethink the way we do business, the way we organize and the way we lead. Globalization, Tranparency, Social Media, Collaborative software - all part of a social revolution that forces companies to engage in Social Business Innovation and Open Business Leadership. What can we learn from LEGO, Google, Starbucks, Proctor & Gamble and Nike?
An interesting video!
When people talk about leadership, they mostly want to learn how to be good leaders at work. leadership in the corporate context is one of the hottest topics in the world, and everyone wants to learn how to become a billionaire and be the best possible boss. However, leadership is not just limited to the work frontier, it extends to all of society. In fact, leadership began as a societal phenomenon much before it evolved into a professional one. In fact, many of the present-day leadership qualities that corporate and professional leaders aspire to are based on the social and political leaders of the yesteryears.
Human beings are social animals and living together in large groups naturally meant that people needed to adopt different roles and accomplish different groups. In order to give structure to society and help society grow and develop, people were naturally divided into leaders and followers. The leaders paved the way and moved from one frontier to another, directing the others, while the followers completed the tasks assigned to them and helped bring the changes about.
Understanding the role and impact of good leadership in society makes for an interesting study. While it’s easy to break down the effects of leadership in the work environment into small, easily identifiable structures, analyzing how positive leadership affects society is somewhat complex. Society is a multi-phenomena structure, with a myriad of social forces, elements and factors at play all the time. Society is not limited to a few defined goals, and hence, leadership in society is a vast, and often intangible, phenomenon...
Watch Gary Hamel, celebrated management thinker and author and co-founder of the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX), make the case for reinventing management for the 21st century. In this fast-paced, idea-packed, 15-minute video essay, Hamel paints a vivid picture of what it means to build organizations that are fundamentally fit for the future—and genuinely fit for human beings. It's time to radically rethink how we mobilize people and organize resources to productive ends. Here's how we start.
Literally hundreds of “idea people” are wilting in Corporate America today. Many feel they are talking to a brick wall when they propose process improvements or new product concepts to their employers (see case study in prior post). They voice frustration with “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” thinking and silo mentality.
In exploring this topic, I did find one wildly happy idea person working inside a large organization and interviewed him for this post. Meet IBM Fellow John Cohn, Ph.D., an idea powerhouse who has been at IBM for 29 years. He offers six pieces of wisdom for employers who want to keep their creative talent engaged and on board. Enjoy.
Employer takeaway #1: Recognize your organization’s need for...
This is the final paper in the Spencer Stuart/Deloitte digital leadership series which examines the key challenges facing managers in technology, media and telecommunications organisations.
This paper focuses on the critical challenge for TMT companies -- how to innovate beyond products or deeply ingrained ways of working which have been successful to date, but which are now holding back an organisation from its next stage of evolution.
By interviewing some of the leading proponents of innovation, we have highlighted the areas that leaders need to focus on to create an innovative envinroment.
THINK: A Forum on the Future of Leadership, a major event during IBM's centennial year, brought together innovative leaders from across the globe to deepen our collective understanding of the keys to success on a smarter planet. Watch more highlights from the event, September 20 - 21, New York city, at www.ibm.com/thinkforum