It’s important, right? It’s vital to the future, right?
So why is it so hard to get some leaders to hear what everyone is shouting from the rooftops? We all know the leaders that live for innovation, but they’re always working in a different company!
Why are leaders hesitant to commit to innovation? They seem know the theory and believe the reasons as to why they should be innovating, but just can’t seem to make that move and actually do it. I believe there are three types of leaders in relation to innovation activity:
- “Follow Me” – Leaders that are completely sold on the benefits of innovation, shout about it and make it happen.
- “Not Sure” – Leaders that know they should focus on innovation, but don’t have the faith or experienced the benefits of innovation yet.
- “Too Busy” – Those that think innovation is fluffy, a waste of space and a distraction from the job at hand.
I believe you can change the “Not Sure” and “Too Busy” leaders into “Follow Me” leaders. Here’s four areas that could be stopping them and how they can be overcome:
1. They have an ego
Most leaders have an ego that needs to be fed. Innovation can interfere with that because the best ideas no longer come from the top. The role as a leader is make decisions and choose the best ideas to back. You get the credit for creating an environment where ideas can be suggested and taken forward.
2. Their reputation is on the line
An executive wants to back a success. Unless they are a “follow me” leader, they will need a reason to be confident in the benefits that innovation will bring. Instead of launching loud and big, here the suggestion is to start small and prove the concept. This avoids some of the complexity size brings as well as reducing the risk if it fails. It also enables lessons to be learnt about how to improve in the future.
3. They just don’t like change
You know what, leaders are human and some just don’t like change, unless it is them doing the change. Innovation is all about change and doing things differently. In such a case, the benefit that the leader will personally enjoy needs to be outlined. This situation is particularly difficult, but if things don’t improve, this type of leader may not exist for much longer…
4. They don’t know any better
These leaders are doing a great job, technically brilliant, but are not aware of the changing world around them. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s just the world is moving on faster than they realised. In these cases, it actually is quote easy to make them aware of trends and issues that will help them to recognise how much they need to innovate.
In summary, most leaders I have met care about their organisation and nobody wants to captain a sinking ship. Leaders must recognise their role in the innovation journey, and how easily they can kill it. They must to commit to innovation and they may need help, but probably won’t be able to ask for that.
Help them to “hold the line” and hold on for the payoff. Good luck change makers!