All companies have become aware that their future depends on their capacity to innovate, not only in terms of the product or technology, but also in processes, organisation and communication. Many companies understand that in order to innovate it is necessary to develop the creative thinking of their staff with the goal of coming up with new ideas that will translate into innovations that contribute value. Furthermore, some are aware that a change toward a more creative culture won’t be possible without also changing the leadership style of their executives.
But, how many have begun to prepare their executives so that they can assume this change of leadership?
Getting a company to transform itself into a creative and innovative organisation is not merely a question of process. Of course, we will need to organise and systematise creative thinking (which generates the new ideas that lead to innovation) to achieve a lasting change in mentalities and attitudes. Knowing how to postpone judgement, give the most different ideas a chance, or have the will to question the most unquestionable, are some of the things that cannot be achieved without a change in the mentality of the entire staff, beginning with the executives. If the executives continue to limit themselves to optimising what already exists without imagining (or letting others imagine) what could exist, the company won’t be innovative. If they don’t ask their staff to surprise them, encouraging divergence, and instead limit themselves to recognising the most “reasonable” ideas, the company won’t be creative. It’s not a matter of changing the decision-making processes, which will continue to be rational, but rather to strengthen the divergence stage of the process, postponing the convergence stage.
Although it’s surprising, reality shows us that very few companies are developing the innovative leadership of their executives. Our experience of a decade working with all types of companies and sectors has shown us that most organisations only begin to concern themselves with this when they meet with obstacles to the development of creativity and innovation. Frustrations emerge in the organisation because a change is asked for but those “at the top haven’t changed their mindset” and they realise that the leaders are more part of the problem than the solution.
To sum up, we could say that the keys for the executive who wishes to successfully lead creative thinking and innovation in the company are:
- Define an innovation strategy: Reach consensus on a vision of and strategic plans for innovation: where could/should innovation bring value?
- Be the reference for the change in culture and change one’s own leadership style:Encourage it, communicate it and make innovation an inspiring subject. Encourage without control.
- Manage the risk: try fast and cheap, fail fast and cheap, learn quick, scale: Manage error and key learnings from mistake. Culture of prototyping, try first, learn and then decide.
- Have a simple and pragmatic methodology: Establish processes, responsibilities, goals, indicators and timings.
- Encourage and organise Creative Thinking.
- Know how to transform challenges into new questions.
- Know how to choose the appropriate profiles: Know how to manage creative groups and innovation groups.
- Use the oil-spot strategy. Look for allies and quick wins to convince.
- Train and prepare people. Give them methodology, tools, autonomy.
- The path is made by walking.
Get started now, analyse and make corrections. Don’t limit yourself to looking for ideas within the company. Innovation is unquestionably talked about in your company, probably it is even practiced, but has the company started to innovate in its leadership?