Paragon Guest Author and Co-Author of Orchestrating Sustainable Innovation: A Symphony in Sound Bites: Andrea Zintz, Ph.D.
Sr. Executive Coach, Paragon Leadership International
Based on over 35 years of experience as a leader and consultant, I believe there’s an effective leadership model for daily operations and sustainable innovation that helps leaders achieve their goals, regardless of their experience level.
This leadership model is also very useful for managing the change that inevitably accompanies innovation. Consisting of three distinct and often overlooked intentions, the goal of this framework is to shape, stimulate, and support innovation.
To successfully shape innovation, leaders must first look strategically at the external landscape. A strategic perspective takes consideration market forces that determine the value that their organizations bring to the marketplace. Many problems require delving into root causes. An important habit of mind for shaping innovation is to see the whole system. This practice requires leaders to notice recurring patterns, attractors, and factors that can seem entangled until they detect the connections.
Leaders also shape innovation by creating structure, taking long-term views, and allowing time and space for creative thinking and idea generation. They must shape the right mindset for others by providing structural, developmental, and social support. And before leaders can accomplish this, they should consider doing the following:
Leaders wishing to innovate can initiate conversations that stimulate new thinking. When they do this, they manage the creative energy that helps shape an innovation culture and engages employees so they see that they’re assets worthy of an investment of time and energy. For example, when leaders share new knowledge and facilitate provocative and engaging conversations among team members and across department boundaries they raise excitement about what may be possible. What follows are several other ways in which leaders can stimulate innovation:
Leaders can provide support to their followers through skills and competency assessment and then through developmental efforts that often include coaching and mentoring. They also encourage innovation through their sponsorship of specific initiatives and by recognizing and rewarding their employees’ efforts to achieve agreed-upon targets. Supporting employees can take multiple forms:
Reflecting on the key takeaways from successful leaders, people in almost any sector and industry must assertively reinvent their games and accomplish this by setting the stage for creativity and innovation. Similar to the way in which orchestra conductors bring forth music, organizational leaders can lift and inspire their followers to elicit new thinking that’s balanced with successful execution. To do that, leaders must identify current needs and anticipate future ones. Then they need to accurately position and continually reposition their organizations for successful outcomes.
The thought leaders and practitioners who we interviewed for our book, Orchestrating Sustainable Innovation: A Symphony in Sound Bites, expands on this and other leadership strategies expressed in this section and others. By addressing a broad range of topics, they share their experiences, the results of their research, and their best practices.