Innovation Leadership Re-invented.

Innovation is constantly taking place around us, from the mundane and simple, to the abstract and grand. Last night I was watching a video for Samsung’s newest screen prototype, the oled bendable plastic screen under the Youm brand name.

This morning I am sitting in a coffee shop using webbeams – free Wi-Fi provided with coffee drinker’s in mind. I especially love the language used on webbeams website. “Serious Coffee, Serious Wi-Fi. You have things to do and coffee to drink. The last thing you need is sad, sluggish, unresponsive Wi-Fi. Our Wi-Fi is always in a good mood, fast and reliable, so you can enjoy your drink while you do what you need to do.”

Today, reading this, I am reminded of the importance of creatives in business. By “creatives” I am referring to the highly charged creative people, who are often the source of truly momentous innovation breakthroughs.

How does your company foster innovation excellence?

Robert’s Rules of Innovation (RROI) highlights 10 imperatives of creating and sustaining innovation. RROI spells out innovation in ten imperatives; one for each letter in “Innovation” One often overlooked imperative is “T” for TRAINING AND COACHING. Proper training and coaching in the new product development process is essential and helps to reinforce and enhance your company’s innovative culture and mindset. Effective training and coaching is one of the pillars of success to any sustainable Innovation program.

According to Josh Linker, “As most of the tangible advantages of the past have become commoditized, creativity has become the currency of success.”  It’s empowered, creative people that make a culture of innovation.  For creating a company culture and mindset focused on innovation, it starts with proper training and coaching from the top down, and from the very beginning.

When you are leading a team of creatives, it’s no longer about you anymore. Your team is responsible for creating and sustaining innovation, but they require you to set the scene for their success.

Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, who wrote the book of Tao has famously said, “The flame that burns twice as bright, burns half as long”. There are many ways to interpret this; in life and in business. I prefer to think of it as this; truly creative individuals, bright thinkers, and innovators alike, need the right kind of fuel and environment to shine brightly and to continue shining.

Experts in human resources and successful leaders of creatives understand the many ways in which management can extinguish the creative flame.

Here is how it is most often done:

  • Dominating the creative process and alienating the team players.
  • Ignoring or overriding input from your team.
  • Refuting recommendations using language such as “that will never work,” or “we tried that last year and…”
  • Not keeping track of meeting decisions and next steps.
  • Not scheduling ideation sessions.
  • Failing to recognize the contributions of creatives.

Successful, sustainable innovation depends on a natural curiosity and open-mindedness from all members of an organization. It is up to you to ensure that your team burns twice as bright and twice as long, or even infinitely.

Proper hiring, training and coaching is essential to finding and keeping the right people for the right job – but it doesn’t stop there. Continuity is key. New techniques, processes and best practices should always be shared to foster a constant culture of Innovation.

Delegate responsibility and encourage ownership in your company. Select people with the “right stuff” individuals who are driven, proud, and unafraid to reach for the stars. Reward success and praise failure. Create an environment where mistakes can be tolerated; because, where there is no risk, there is no reward. In many companies people are so afraid of making mistakes; they keep their heads down and follow the rules. This does nothing but to sustain mediocrity.

Let you’re A-team work to their potential. Select players that are a bit iconoclastic, let their passion have free rein. Provide regular and fair feedback and keep the lines of communication open. Initially filter idea killers, especially in ideation sessions. You can always add them back once the creative session results are reviewed.

For more information about Training and Coaching for sustainable innovation, see “Robert’s Rules of Innovation” by Wiley, March, 2010.