How Can Top Executives Drive Innovation? Four Steps For Innovation Empowerment
Many entrepreneurs and top CEOs alike grapple with the question of innovation. There is no single organizational management strategy that doesn’t factor innovation. For instance, how did Steve Jobs manage to keep Apple’s innovation pipeline so active and interesting? How come his exit has so far not marked doom for Apple?
There are numerous companies whose star waned as soon as their CEOs left the door? Why? What is it that such companies do or don’t do? Is it a change in tactical planning or strategic management that doesn’t auger with the underlying business model? Answering these questions requires a look at how some other firms prosper even with the departure of their well performing CEOs.
Serial innovators such as Virgin Group’s Richard Branson or Apple’s Steve Jobs kept the fire burning. The departure of a founding CEO should not necessarily mark the end of a company’s innovativeness.
There are companies that have hard to bring back their founding CEOs thanks to waning innovation and performance. Remember Steve Job’s sacking from Apple and reinstatement when the company was performing poorly? As they say, since Jobs comeback, the rest is history! Founding entrepreneurs want to take a rest and enjoy the sunset after driving innovation and their companies to greater heights. Unfortunately, not many get to enjoy the sunset!
Innovation does not have to stall when a founder leaves. There are certain essential practices that can help your organization trudge ahead with innovation. You don’t have to recall a departed CEO to revive a company. It is all in engaging new strategies that help the company stay innovative. Yes, it’s totally understandable….transitions from founder to managers are tough! But with the right business strategy, the new management can survive transition efficiently.
Doing what serial innovators do
There are successful companies that have distinguished themselves as serial innovators. An analysis of these companies’ corporate strategy and leadership reveals certain commonalities. There are unique characteristics that cut across these innovative firms. These characteristics may help other businesses innovate. Most noteworthy, leadership styles in these serial innovators were all geared towards powering innovation.
Here are four leadership lessons that you can learn from serial innovators!
- Creating a Vision and direction for innovation
Great leaders spend a lot more time developing a clear-cut vision and direction for innovation in a company. Employees need to have a clear picture of the end goal—what is the end of the journey? What are the expectations at the end of the day? Such a vision must flow from the bottom of the company up to the management. Such a vision must also include pulling input from outside the organization. Leadership must at all times focus on bringing out the genius in workers. It must always help create innovative and unique product lines.
- Setting impossible goals within existing circumstances
A common trait amongst serial innovators is setting unattainable goals within an existing business model. This helps empower employees to innovate as they feel challenged to achieve a seemingly difficult, specific end. An example is President Kennedy’s call in the 60s that America should take a man to the moon in 10 years, or Google declaring its sole aim as organizing the world’s information! This almost unfeasible objectives rally employees towards achieving a specific common objective.
- Embracing Risk Taking and experimentation
Most major innovations in the world arose out of risk taking innovators. An organization’s leadership must embrace risk taking and experimentation. Failures in the ideation and experimentation process are helpful as they eliminate potential pitfalls.
- Data! Data! Data!
Data is playing a crucial role in innovation today. There is a lot that can be learnt from data. Leaders in serial innovators embrace a data driven innovation culture. Data is crucial in making fact based decisions that push a business forward. Data gives innovators enhanced decision making capacity.
Imbibing these crucial leadership aspects can help a company outlive its CEO for generations!