Friday, March 28, 2008

Leadership and Innovation

Leadership and Innovation continues to be a top CEO priority globally.

More than 70% of senior executives from a recent McKinsey survey states that Innovation is one of the top three drivers of growth for their companies in the next three to five years.

This also mirrors our experiences at Helix Commerce International Inc., and TerraForum, a close strategic alliance partner of ours that also specializes in innovation and growth acceleration strategies and approaches.

In today's fast paced business world, innovation is one of the most important business strategies to accelerate growth. Yet even with the incredible support and awareness growing of leadership wanting to develop increased innovation capacity, their confidence level on their organization's ability to innovate remains very low in the majority of industry surveys.

Stimulating innovation capacity is very difficult - creating the demand and supply practices for innovation requires the following approaches for success.

Strategy One - Organizations need to integrate innovation into their core business strategies and day to day operating practices. Too many executives are using the word "Innovation", but when you dig under the covers - you soon find that there is not a clear innovation framework for governance, operating practices and measurement systems anchored to monitor innovation success.

Strategy Two - Organization Culture and People are critical to developing innovation capacity. At the core of innovation is achieving stronger values, beliefs and rituals which increases: trust, risk taking, lateral thinking, collaboration, curiosity to continually learn, knowledge sharing, respect and cultural diversity. All of these value are attributes are core cultural needs to be carefully cultivated and nurtured. The most important drivers for innovation success are culture and people. You can develop wonderful strategies, business processes, and practices to enable innovation, but if the culture and people skills are not aligned - you go no where fast. More CEOs and Chief Talent Officers need to ensure there is a deep focus on people and culture to generate innovation capacity.

Strategy Three - Our research on collaboration commerce and innovation practises has continued to reinforce that: if organizations spend more time on architecting innovation network capabilities for people to collaborate they will increase their ability to generate new ideas. This means - understanding the social network patterns of knowledge flows and then ensuring there is resilence and capacity to share knowledge. Investing in collaboration and social mediated tools will help - but network and collaboration stimulation is key. We believe network innovation stimulation practices are far more effective investment strategies than automating rigid business processes. Start ensuring first that the networks and knowledge sharing ecosystems are enabled to connect, collaborate and communicate effectively. This will go a long way to successfully develop and transform innovation cultural capacity. More formal practices can follow - and need to follow.

Strategy Four - Ensure your organization invests in leadership development programs as leadership is the best predictor of innovation performance. The way leaders interact day to day sends strong communication signals to employees, customers and suppliers. Encouraging innovation, promoting it, supporting it, enabling it vs paying lip service is critical for people to believe that senior executives mean innovation is important, as they are focused on reinforcing the innovation importance message and backing it up with business processes, practices and support tools to ensure Innovation happens.

Strategy Five - Nothing is more successful than success. Ensuring specific projects are seeded that are innovation projects and communicated as such helps an organization feel there is real progress and commitment to innovation - walking the talk is key. Quick successes allow people to see results and hence participate in the change and also learn from the change. Innovation needs to be carefully seeded before stronger harvests can be acheived. But a positive experience makes all the difference in building an organization's confidence and capabilities to continue to sustain innovation momentum.

We have strong innovation strategy and innovation capacity culture assessment toolkits available to help organizations address these five key strategy areas. If you would like to learn more, please contact us at (647)477-6254.

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