Can any leader drive innovation?

Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face” The same is true for innovation. I have never met a team or executive who tells me,” hey Sudesh we are fine with the status quo” All organizations want to innovate, some carry it as a core value yet many abuse the very meaning essence of innovation.

Innovation is the creation of something both novel and useful. It can be large or small, incremental or breakthrough. It can be a new product, a new service , a new process, a new business model, a new way of organizing etc. That said, can anyone drive innovation? No! And here is why:

Willingness to innovate isn’t obvious: It is tempting to believe that people and organizations are naturally eager to create something new and useful, when in fact they are not. Innovation thrives on diversity, conflict, and courage. For a leader to harness these elements he/she needs to know how to create a willing team. One way is to create an environment where making mistakes is okay but not learning from them is punishable. One more thing about willingness, the leader has to go first and embrace diversity otherwise it won’t work.

The ability to innovate is another reason why every leader can’t drive innovation. Not every leader is willing to build the systems and competencies necessary to innovate. For starters, a leader should be able to build collaboration, agility and measurement of progress.

The next time you think about innovation think about becoming a leader who is willing and capable.

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