Wanted: Innovation Leaders
I was reading a post from Drew Boyd (see his Innovation in Practice blog) about academic research into what competencies are important in innovation practitioners and innovation leaders. Drew, and the academics and research he cites, are far more eloquent than I can be. However, the lack of eloquence has never slowed me from climbing up on the soapbox.
Any firm that decides to build a consistent, sustainable innovation capability needs senior executive commitment and funding. That goes without saying. But the innovation initiative needs a strong, determined leader who can demonstrate the following four skills or competencies:
- Excellent communication
Vision: The innovation team leader will recruit people to his team in an uncertain climate to do some fairly risky things. She needs to be able to communicate her vision for innovation capabilities and how that aligns to the senior management team's needs and strategies.
Commitment: Sorry, part-timers need not apply. If your innovation team leader is part-time, how can she convince people to join her team and make a big commitment. They'll all have one foot in the innovation team and one foot firmly planted in their safe, comfortable existing roles. An innovation leader trying to start a challenging new process that probably runs counter to organization culture can't succeed on a part-time basis.
Fearlessness: You can't succeed when innovation trying not to fail. Too many innovation programs seek very simple, very safe ideas to generate and implement. That's not the point. We've already got Black belts and continuous improvement programs and product roadmaps. We need some risk and danger. The leader needs to be able to stick her neck out and ask some crazy questions, cannibalize existing products and overturn markets, or the end result will be more of the same.
Communication: The innovation leader will recruit full time and part time people to a completely new task, create new processes and methods and generate ideas that will hopefully threaten existing products and services. Based on that description, don't you think they need great communication skills? This means both the skills to speak to the executives as well as to inform the team and the general population.
If your team is forming, or you are considering building an innovation program, now is a good time to write the job description of the innovation leader. Part Gary Cooper, Part Dr. Phil and fully committed to success.