Category: teams

Properties of Innovation Leaders

Somebody within the organization needs to initiate the innovation process. What are the characteristics of innovation leaders? They are often different, operate differently, and go about things differently than most others in the organization. Typically they are adaptive and serves as a catalysts to change others’ perspectives in the organization. Such innovation leaders tend to have people skills (“emotional IQ”), communication skills, and are masters at building consensus among stakeholders within the organization.

Developing a Network for Your Innovation Environment

An innovation network exists inside and outside your organization. Inside, certain individuals will characteristically have the traits necessary to form strong innovation teams. Outside your organization, the function is called open innovation, sourcing innvotive ideas, intellectual property, products, services, and processess to augment and leverage your internal resources.

To outsource your innovation efforts, your organization could seek resources in areas that complement your product or service portfolios. Opening a web portal for vendors to solicit your business whereby you decide your needs.

Mapping your innovation environment is the first step. Determine the products and/or services you need that complement those in your organization. As part of your map, look at the scope of the work in which your organization has been involved and develop a tragectory of where your organization is going. Then populate the map with potential vendors and partners your organization needs. Rank the partners and vendors based on your priorities. Once the innovation environmental map is developed and several in-sourcing and outsourcing tasks have been accomplished, evaluate their value in terms of performance, mutual benefit, complementary and respective core competencies, and respective needs and expectations.

Facets of Innovation

Facets of Innovation

Leading to the Marketplace

Success looks like having an integrated, collaborative, accountable innovation process that leads to a diversified and full pipeline, as repeatable, sustainable, and with speed to concept.

There is a need to establish an approach and process to innovation. Success can also be attained with the presence of dedicated and focused resources including the need for a cross-functional core team. They provide oversight that culls all elements and identify areas and opportunities: marketing, R&D, packaging of consumer insights, claims landscapes, emerging science, previous conducted research/evidence/ideas, discovery/bioactives, health professional insights, global landscape, external marketplace/health trends.

Global Steps in Innovation

Many folks liken the process of innovation to a baseball diamond:

First base – Vision

Second base – Strategy

Third base – Ranking priorities

Home – Alignment of resources: people, places, services.

We need the relevant people who share a common understanding of the vision and the strategy, accept the validity of that direction, and have a passionate commitment to make it work. We also need senior executive leadership support, a comprehensive, adaptable communication plan, a contract for buy-in to goals & direction, a creative focus on the few highest priority initiatives, as well as a governance process for investment (priorities), aligned pay-for-performance metrics, group leadership development, values-based goals, milestones & metrics.

Innovation environments: Conflicts affect performance

Conflict is inevitable in environments in which more than one opinion is need to be successful. Managing conflict is a major component for optimizing innovation environments. Individuals attracted to engineering and the sciences are often not those who know how to cope easily with conflict and often seek to avoid confrontation. Moreover, when conflict occurs individual performance and that of the team are diminished. Two-thirds of perceived performance issues are actually conflict related rather than to actual performance or skills competencies. In the book Crucial Conversations, strategies and processes are presented to identify and resolve conflicts.  Rapid conflict resolution greatly speeds innovation.

Several other observations are notable regarding conflict resolution, performance and the nature of innovation: those that score highly on active constructive behaviors and perceptions of leadership are promotable, potential creativity among team members is ubiquitous, a moment, an attitude, or a belief. The most pertinent point: there is more than one right answer. Sometimes we stop at the first right answer and we need to break our pattern of instant focus by letting the idea percolate. One way: try reframing the idea, change the lens, and triangulate with market needs.

R&D Scenario Planning will Enable Adaptability

Scenario planning is not something done only in the executive suite or in the marketing department. R&D needs to conduct their own scenario planning based on executive and marketing counterparts. Consider resource constraints, adequate supply of scientists in the specialty disciplines that augment your core competencies, additional parameters that drive scenarios, global implications, and evolving regulatory environments when developing your scenarios. Using these considerations often facilitate developing your near- and long-term scenarios and make your R&D more adaptable to changes.

The Pace and Cadence of Innovation

The Pace and Cadence of Innovation

Surges can be anticipated

Surges can be anticipated

Let’s face it, innovation is not like a finely-tuned engine operating at optimum capacity all of the time. How do you anticipate the ebbs and flows that invariably crop up with the pace of innovation, let alone the workload (which is often independent of innovation)? How do handle the inevitable slow periods of innovation? How do you spark the team out of an innovation slump? What metrics beyond gut feel do you use to measure the current pace of innovation?

To start, let your team see the big picture, to remind and spark their intuitive skills and abilities. Seeing the big picture allows your team to make insights and set directions whereas everyday working events tend to keep their attention.

Can Technology jumpstart your innovation effort?

According to a recent report in McKinsey & Company hotspots around the world and by Richard Florida, hotspots exist in the many cities around the world including United States that seem to foster innovation, or folks that belong to the creative class.

What makes these places special that attracts the creative folks? Are these the only hotspots, or cities conducive to innovative efforts, or just the metropolitan areas that receive the most notority?

Setting the Example as a Leader

What are the qualities of being a leader? Let’s get to the point: be tactically and technically proficient:
– Know yourself and seek self-improvement, making sound and timely decisions
– Know your colleagues and look out for their welfare, keeping them informed
– Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished
– Train your colleagues as a team, in accordance with their capabilities
– Develop a sense of responsibility in your colleagues
– Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions

People are diverse in their interests, talents and skills, and this diversity fuels the success of the team, and in turn, your success. It is key that a leader creates momentum in the organization and engage the people to understand simply what good looks like and create an environment where they feel empowered to really contribute you need to know and be able to deliver operational performance/results and have to have a certain knowledge to be able to credibly lead and drive improvements. In the words of the psychologist, Carl Jung: “we should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect; we apprehend it just as much by feeling. Therefore, the judgment of the intellect is, at best, only the half of truth, and must, if it be honest, also come to an understanding of its inadequacy” (Psychological Types, or, The Psychology of Individuation, p. 628, 1921). Albert Einstein said something with similar meaning: “the search and striving for truth and knowledge is one of the highest of man’s qualities – though often, the pride is most loudly voiced by those who strive the least. And certainly we should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality. It cannot lead, it can only serve; and it is not fastidious in its choice of a leader. This characteristic is reflected in the qualities of its priests, the intellectuals. The intellect has a sharp eye for methods and tools, but is blind to ends and values. So it is no wonder that this fatal blindness is handed on from old to young and today involves a whole generation” (excerpted from: The Goal of Human Existence, November 4, 1943).

The power of balancing one’s technical and people skills, allowing a diversity of thought, backgrounds, and productive behavior drives a sustainable innovation culture. Applying these qualities and behaviors to the innovation environment and using the technical and people skills leads to a sustainable innovation environment. These qualities help the innovation environment develop as one develops their internal and external innovation networks.

Leadership and Management of Innovation Environments

Leadership and Management of Innovation Environments

Bridge Over Snake RiverLeadership and management are often confused and used interchangeably by many executives. Both involve such an overlap of activities in many situations. Leadership is viewed as the soft stuff needed to build and maintain teams and to motivate everyone to follow the strategic plan, the outcome of management activity. From my experience leadership and management represents a continuum of actions and thinking that are interfaced and interactive. Without a strategic plan to follow and people motivated to follow it, an innovation environment will flounder and stagnate.

To me it all centers around treating people as unique individuals. People tend to think first as individuals, speak often with self-interest in mind, react like people, behave like people, and they change (as people) and only if they decide to change. In my experience as a research executive and a management consultant, leaders who treat people as unique individuals create collaborative successes, they build successful teams, they continually act with integrity, and they build sustainable, innovative platforms to meet the strategic plan of the organization. They need to bridge the gap between leadership and management skills and apply to the situation as needed.

Many executives need to develop their exterior focus on other people. Many are still challenged by their own ability to be introspective, they need to be challenged to evaluate how they think, especially their own behavioral patterns, how they react to certain triggers, learn about their own fears, how they see people, and how they communicate and come across in general. A leader needs to have a great level of self awareness, before even being able to start effectively dealing with other people.