7 Aspects Of Effective Innovation Leadership

A truly innovative organization is one that can constantly improve the way its products and services are delivered, whether that means incorporating new technologies or using more flexible production methods. However, innovation leadership can be something of a daunting task. 

Thankfully, by breaking it down into key characteristics, the journey ahead instantly feels far more manageable. Here are seven key features that will ensure effective innovation leadership and winning results for any agile company that fully commits to it.

1. Company-wide buy-ins

Innovation is often relegated to a few select departments and individuals, who then struggle to get the rest of the organization to buy-in. However, innovators can inspire each other, which is what makes it so important to get company-wide buy-in. A culture of openness and trust is fundamental to encouraging innovative thinking, as well as ensuring everyone feels invested in the process.

Implenia highlighted how this can lead to phenomenal results. Using KICKBOX by rready, Implenia engaged their top management and reached out to all their employees regardless of their role, offering them necessary coaching and support. In their first year, they had as many as 30 ideas from participating intrapreneurs.


2. Active collaboration

It’s one thing to acquire a company-wide buy-in but innovation leadership should also focus on encouraging teamwork. In fact, 40% of employees globally complain about a lack of communication and collaboration in their workplace. 

Tools like KICKBOX are particularly useful in this environment, combining the best elements of physical products with cloud-based and data-driven software to facilitate collaboration across all teams. Not least because teams can combine their individual skills within the context of a project to see it through to completion.


3. Tolerating risk

If people fear failure – or the reaction to one of their bad ideas – they are likely to stop offering ideas. Yet, research shows that approximately 95% of new product innovations fail. Therefore, creating psychological safety is vital when creating a work environment in which innovation can thrive.

It is a mindset shift that enables employees to present ideas without fear of consequences. By accepting failures as natural obstacles on the path to success, leaders can also assess and address setbacks in style. Teams will find it even easier to identify and overcome issues when data-backed collaboration is in place.


4. Promoting curiosity

In many aspects of life, the words ‘what if’ are seen in a negative context regarding the potential problems that could be encountered. However, focusing on ‘what if’ as a catalyst for curiosity and problem-solving can be the key to innovation in business.

Necessity is the mother of invention, but it only works if people have the confidence to ask ‘how’ an issue can be resolved. Swisscom’s Help2Type was born from asking ‘what if there was a more accessible solution for visually impaired users?’ Without that curiosity, projects simply cannot get off the ground. 


5. Championing innovators

Intrapreneurs are essentially entrepreneurs who are already in the company. As an innovation leader, it naturally makes sense to place a heavy focus on this. They know the products and the client, which should lead to increased success in the context of innovation. Providing the tools and mental support to promote this will be vital.

Intrapreneurs bring bottom-line improvement for companies. Notably, it can encourage creativity and innovation from other departments, as well as future recruits. As a leader, this can effectively create a situation where innovation is almost automated.


6. Innovation as a culture

For innovation to truly succeed, it cannot be something that can be turned on or off or scheduled for set moments. Time for innovation should be something you have in your everyday office culture. It should be something that is embedded within a company.

In addition to the right mindset, it’s vital that you build a positive working environment. People won’t innovate when they are stressed or in a poor physical state. Simple adjustments like improving the break room or adding a coffee machine can help.


7. Leading by example

At the very top of this post, we discussed the importance of a company-wide investment in innovation strategies. It will be almost impossible for employees to trust the process if their leaders aren’t innovative too. The good news is that it won’t only inspire the employees, but will also improve customer expectations.

Innovation leaders should innovate by taking action. This could mean introducing programs like KICKBOX or simply having the courage to take risks. When supported by creating an open dialogue and feedback loop, leadership will lead to innovation across the company.

As we have seen, there are many aspects to effective innovation leadership, all linked by the need for a culture of innovation. By investing in these seven elements, businesses can prepare themselves to circumvent the roadblocks and achieve great things.

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