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If there is one thing we have come to understand over the past few years, it is that innovation is the only way for most companies to survive in our competitive global markets. If we ask ourselves who has innovated within companies up until now, the question is more or less easy to answer: the burden has fallen on R&D departments, where the “magic” is supposed to happen. They are the innovators, the ones who generate ideas so that the rest of the company can put them into practice.

But today, having a few good ideas a year is simply not enough. Companies must learn to survive beyond their R&D departments, by expanding barriers and uncovering innovative talent hidden in all employees, all of who are capable of contributing more than we can currently imagine. The time has come to stop being a company that innovates and start being an innovative company.

And so we come to the second question: who should lead this profound change? Who will now be responsible for executing it and for the company’s survival? The answer: this metamorphosis can only driven by the directors, heads of department, managers, board members and even presidents and CEOs. Innovation needs to overcome departmental barriers and engrain itself in the company’s culture and philosophy through those who direct and lead it. Now is when we realize that we may have been mistaken all this time, when we thought that innovation was the sole responsibility of one department, rather than involving all members of the organization.

Once the agents of change have been identified, the moment arrives to develop new management strategies, different to those used in the past, which means changing and evolving management habits and even mental models. Resistance to change will be the great handicap.

The following points are some of the changes that leaders can promote within the company in order to participate in innovation:

• A truly committed attitude towards innovation.

Redesign incentives to motivate employees to participate in the innovative process that will achieve the company’s transformation.

• Establish tools to detect and manage employee talent.

• The director must become a facilitator and connector between people and ideas inside the organization.

• A transparent implementation and work process is the best way to communicate and create an environment where ideas are truly listened to.

Ultimately, the objective is to support changes in innovation from any field that can drive the company forward.

It isn’t that difficult… here are two cases of leaders who know how to lead by example:

Haruka Nishimatsu, President of Japan Airlines, one of the ten airlines with the most passengers in the world, who continues to inspire his employees.

And Barack Obama, President of the USA, convinced of the importance of innovation in his most recent address to the nation:

“We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow.”

“All-in” says Obama, an expression used in poker to say you want to bet all you have, because for a successful transformation, change must be complete, we need to go all in.

As the title of the post says: the time to transform our leadership has come. Without it, change is impossible.

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