Innovation and Leadership Go Hand in Hand

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower"
Steve Jobs

There is a view in 2014 that true leadership is no longer about targets, process and procedures. In fact, this structure is often less effective in modern business as it stifles an individual’s and a team’s ability to innovate. Indeed, the generation of Millennials coming through the pipeline is more likely to leave if their manager does not inspire them.  With this in mind, your leadership footprint should be about flexibility, innovation and an awareness of how your people view you as a colleague.

Create an environment that supports innovation

Businesses who want their biggest asset (their people) to generate new ideas in order to create a competitive advantage must make sure their company fully supports the ideas process. For example, giving an employee 5-10% of their allocated time of their working week to experiment and research new ideas can foster an innovative environment. It is this approach that led to some of Google’s best and most popular ideas such as Gmail and Google Maps.

Cultivate integrated working

For innovation to truly thrive, your people must begin to work in an integrated way. Businesses who work cross departmentally and share ideas are more likely to support a ‘one team one goal’ mentality which stimulates ideas and innovation.

It’s important to ensure that each department is open to ideas of the others and that they feel equally involved with your company’s activities and, more importantly, your achievements.

Reward and recognition

Creativity and innovation must be recognised, nurtured and rewarded. Without it, businesses will stagnate or, worse still, be left behind.

By fostering a creative, free-thinking, environment which is open to new initiatives and one which links innovation directly to a bonus system will ensure individuals and teams feel their contributions is both valued and rewarded.

A bonus doesn’t need to be limited to financial remuneration. You must find what your employees value first and adapt your approach accordingly. Only then can a bonus structure be truly effective and inspiring for your employees. This is something that we had touched upon in one of our previous articles “Managing a High Performance Team”.

Turning ideas into reality

Bringing people together in your business who would not normally meet is a great way to nurture the connections that can lead to innovation. Monthly informal social activities or regular discussion groups and brainstorming sessions can encourage ideas and networking. These are the first steps for capturing ideas and turning them into practical solutions.

Don’t be scared to fail

The biggest barrier to innovation is fear of failure. To be innovative, you need to lose the fear and try things that you aren’t sure will work. Allow employees to question existing structures, and remember that if their idea works it could transform your business.

Don’t stand still; there is always something to keep striving for, and keep innovating!

Celebrate success

Celebrate your business’ innovation success and praise the people behind the ideas.  Sharing successes and milestones helps cultivate a culture of creativity and foster the sense of belonging among your employees.

You can do this in a number of ways including company newsletters, emails, social networking, employee award ceremonies, and regular informal activities for celebrating and sharing.