In the past, strategy was the keystone to reach business success. Within an ecosystem of tremendous stability in the market and great rigidity, businessmen relied the future of their organizations on a given common framework, shared by the competition. Certainty in good results, therefore, lied in excellent management of capital goods and human capital. And if things went wrong, the only thing to do was to change the manager. The framework was untouchable.
Nowadays, however, the complexity and uncertainty of increasingly globalized markets turn corporate planning, even if it is done a few months ahead, into a true challenge. Hence, the key to profitable companies is not sheer management anymore, but innovation, a process that must begin at the top of the organization.
In their white paper about innovation How Leadership Makes The Difference, David Magellan and Jonathan Vehar, entrepreneurs and experts in organizational creativity, consider that necessary innovation “implies carrying out something new that creates value or quantifiable benefits” and requires “many skills which, generally speaking, are those within a team”.
In other words, it can’t be expected that corporate organizational innovation is something like spontaneous inspiration dwelling and blooming in the head of a painter or a sculptor. Quite the contrary, it demands from the organization a culture that, from the acknowledgement of inner weaknesses, is able to find opportunities in order to remain attractive for their customers within a tough-competition environment.
Configuring such innovation culture requires, on the one hand, a dynamic of sharing knowledge within the company; on the other hand, mutual learning among the members of the organization; finally, and perhaps most importantly, having a highly-creative, productive leadership.
Keys to organizational innovation leadership
American entrepreneur and prestigious guru in matters of innovation Phil McKinney provides a set of principles so that leadership becomes the key to success of innovation within the company. Among them are the following:
- Long-term future vision.
- Convey confidence to employees so that they generate ideas.
- Being able to step out of the comfort zone during critical times that require creative solutions.
- Set aspirational goals for team members.
Magellan and Vehar also outline their own leadership profile in order for a company to work around an organizational innovation dynamic. Three are its cornerstones:
- Tools and techniques that allow to create new options and their implementation into the organization, generating alignment and commitment in each one of its members.
- A framework that allows leaders to “utilize their knowledge and skills to achieve their goals”.
- An inquisitive mentality, “customer-centred” and “open to ambiguity”.
With regard to HR management, the role of the leader when implementing innovation culture within the company is one of accomplishing a change that allows, according to entrepreneurship and leadership consultant Juan Carlos Casco, a transition from “employees with repetitive tasks” to “employees with freedom to take decisions”.
After all, working environment and talent are two of the fundamental pillars in order to implement an innovation culture. In that sense, this dynamic must infect professionals with an open-minded attitude towards new ideas and an ability to accept that experimentation is positive. In addition, it’s advisable to add training and innovation development programmes to the mix, and build teams with diverse knowledge and skills.
Those companies neglecting the importance of both productive and organizational innovation as a key to success, are liable to disappear.