Making innovation a habit – the birth of the creative leader

by Janet Sernack

dance-5-picture“The traditional way we’ve thought about leadership—which I would describe as leading from the front, this idea that someone is at the top making all of the decisions—is not the most effective way of unlocking the creativity of an organization, whether it’s a traditional design organization, like an Ideo, or a company that’s trying to be more creative in the future,” he says. “The pace of change, the level of volatility, and the level of disruption across every industry requires that all organizations either constantly evolve, or they get out-competed by someone that’s fitter than they are.”

Tim Brown, CEO of the design consultancy Ideo, believes that all organizations should be run creatively and that 21st century leadership is like a ‘dance’. This suggests that leaders (and their people) need to cultivate the skills to move between the stances required to adapt and respond to the moment and to the circumstances to achieve the outcomes they want to have.

If innovation is defined as CREATIVITY + IMPLEMENTATION and requires us to deal with both DISRUPTION and VARIATION simultaneously, then knowing how to master the ‘dance’ is critical to 21st century enterprise success.

At ImagineNation™ we have learnt that mastering the dance requires interplay between strategy and systems and between people and technology.

This disrupts the status quo and creates the connectedness that achieves the desired agility and simplicity.

It requires a shift from regulated, compliance based process oriented work cultures to more human centred cultures and value adding project based work that unlocks people’s collective genius in ways that customers value and cherish.

This requires designing and aligning 4 key pivotal dance steps to see and creatively solve 21st century wicked and business problems;

dance-5-picture

  1. Vision

The first step in the dance is to clarify an inclusive vision as to what the world will look like in the future when the business enterprise is innovative.  In such an inspiring, engaging and compelling way that it acts as a ‘north star’ that focuses and aligns leadership, resources and efforts towards implementing the desired value in ways that users and customer value and cherish. With clear lines of sight to customers enabling the value chain of interdependencies to collaboratively deliver a great customer experience to produce the ultimate financial benefit to the business enterprise.

Tim Brown suggests that the leaders key role is an Explorer; “There are moments when you as a leader need to point to the horizon and say let’s go explore in that direction, but that’s mostly about asking the question rather than having the answer,” he says. “The most effective way of leading from the front in an organization if you want to be exploratory is to ask the best questions. Sometimes that’s a question about what our purpose is. Why are we here? Sometimes it’s about a particular opportunity. In traditional design terms, it’s about setting the brief.”

  1. Culture

Is about creating an environment that unlocks people’s creative potential and facilitates ease of implementation so that innovation can flourish and become part of the way things are done in the organization. Where disruption and provocation are safely applied as vehicles for effecting perceptual shifts and collisions that result in creative ideas.  Where variation occurs without the boundaries and constraints of hard and fast beliefs, messages and rules. In such a way that people collaborate by networking, teaming and operating their interdependencies; to see, empathize with and solve business and customer problems and to implement what needs to be done to deliver the desired value to customers.

Tim Brown suggests that the leader’s key role is a Gardener; “It’s about nurturing the conditions in which creativity is most likely to happen,” Brown says. “That’s really about culture, environment, rituals—the sorts of things that give people permission to explore, that encourages open-mindedness, collaboration, experimentation, and risk taking. Those sorts of things that we know are important for creativity.”

  1. Learning

Is about developing and mobilizing people’s collective genius to see, understand and analyze problems through learning, support, encouragement and empowerment.

Where people cultivate the emotional agility and accountability to stay focused and resilient in the face of complexity, uncertainty and adversity. Where people take responsibility for cultivating innovative mindsets, behaviors and skills that enable them to be different, think and act differently to make the difference they want to make to the world. Where people have permission to play, take smart risks, experiment and make mistakes. Where people know how to integrate start-up methodologies with design thinking to prototype creative ideas, to fail fast and learn by doing, iterating and pivoting, quickly. Where people value and embrace deviance and diversity in ways that co-create provocative, disruptive and creative ideas and innovative solutions.

Tim Brown suggests that the leader’s key role is a Player Coach; The best coaches today in sports are often ones that played themselves,” Brown says. “They understand what the players are going through. They can empathize, and we think that’s pretty important.”

  1. Technology

Is about installing ‘best fit’ technology as integrative innovation management and implementation levers to collect, evaluate and process creative ideas as well as to align strategy and goals and drive accountability.  Where software, enterprises and people streamline the journey of one idea to market, accelerating the innovation process and responding to the customer need faster than the competition. By maximizing people creative abilities and unlocking their innovation potential, in being, thinking and doing things differently people are engaged and enabled to embed innovation into everyday activity. Where innovation becomes a habitual part of the ‘way things get done’ in the business enterprise.  Where people feel and are free to self express, co-operate, collaborate and reciprocate in applying their learning’s within a supportive enterprise culture to identify and creatively solving business challenges and implement them as true innovations.

Some guidelines – how and where to make a start?

At ImagineNation™, we have learnt (most often the hard way) Innovation works best when;

  • Leaders work with, understand and acknowledge ‘what is’ in terms of understanding your unique current enterprise cultural messages and range of business problems.
  • Leaders strategically choose what type of innovation to pursue, because innovation is fluid and not a one type fits all solution.
  • Leaders boldly dare to engage people in exploring blue oceans and articulating ‘what could be’ in terms of improving your customer’s experience of your products, processes and services.

How have we handled it?

At ImagineNation™ we embraced a strategic and systemic approach to add value to our client’s knowledge, leadership, management and experience of innovation by created a global innovation eco-system of leading edge strategic, diagnostic and technology partners.

This enables leaders and business enterprises to make the moves between the stances required to adapt and respond to the moment, and to master the circumstances of the ‘dance’ critical to 21st century enterprise success.

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janet-sernackJanet Sernack is an ICF ACC accredited executive coach, corporate trainer, group facilitator and culture and change consultant with over 25 years of experience with some of Australasia’s and Israel top 100 companies. She is the Founder of ImagineNation™ a generative and provocative innovation education company that provides innovation e-learning programs including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ experiential learning events including The Start-Up Game™ and culture transformation projects that enable people and corporations to develop a strategic and systemic innovation culture and internal capability.

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