Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Leading Innovation

We know that leading innovation is key for any organization which wants to thrive – or even survive.  In fact, not so long ago a Nonprofit CEO was quoted in The Chronicle of Philanthropy that we are now in an environment where it is “innovate or die.”

But how do executives go about leading innovation?  In the June 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review, Harvard leadership professor Dr. Linda Hill and colleagues have an article entitled “Collective Genius”* which provides some insights.

Their opening point is this: “The role of a leader of innovation is not to set a vision and motivate others to follow it.  It’s to create a community that is willing and able to innovate.”

This is opposite from what most leaders think their role is.  They think that they need to create vision and sell it.  But what Hill et. al. tell us is that creating a culture of innovation is the leader’s main responsibility.

Creating a community which has a culture of innovation includes four key points:

1.  Shared Purpose & Values.  Make sure that everyone is clear on the mission of the organization and the core values that everyone is expected to follow.

2.  Creative Abrasion: Discourse & Debate.  A culture of innovation encourages active debate among teams.  They do not avoid conflict and know that “constructive conflict” leads to better ideas.

3.  Creative Agility: Experiment, Learn, Adjust.  Innovation does not mean figuring out the perfect idea immediately and then scaling it.  Try small experiments.  See what works and what doesn’t.  Learn, adjust, and experiment some more.

4.  Creative Resolution: “And/Both” Thinking.  So often when confronted with options for action we use “either/or” thinking.  Creative Resolution involves looking for ways to take the best of seemingly opposing ideas and melding them together.

Innovation is a key competency for success in today’s ever changing environment.  Utilize these ideas to create a culture of innovation and make even more of a Mission Impact.

*Collective Genius, Linda A. Hill, Harvard Business Review, June 2104

For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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