Do You Put the “No” in Innovation?
This is a healthy question all leaders should ask themselves from time to time. Most leaders I know love to think of themselves as innovators. Steve Jobs even defined the quality of one’s leadership in terms of having the ability to lead innovation. Right up there with being a visionary, most leaders love to think of themselves as innovators. This is where Gustavo’s concept of risk tolerance comes into play and why taking stock of what you espouse versus what you do or how you behave toward others is so important. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner would describe it as how you “model the way!”
A lot of leaders talk a big game when it comes to creativity, innovation, and out-of-the-box thinking. If you asked them, many would say they have built a culture that encourages their employees to bring fresh new ideas to their business. Yet, unwittingly, the leader’s actual behavior serves to suck the innovative life out of their organizations. It’s like the leader who preaches teamwork, yet compensates and rewards employees based on individual performance. The disconnect is palpable. Similarly, innovation is talked about, but predictability and reliability are what’s most prized. You can talk creativity and innovation all you want, but if your employees are not consistently encouraged to try new things, fail, and learn, all your talk about creativity and innovation is just talk.
Ask yourself if your actions square with your beliefs and your values. Do your employees have the freedom to experiment and make mistakes? Are they given the time to do so? Do you recognize and reward employees for coming up with new ideas that can improve your business? Are you encouraging your senior leaders and middle managers to inspire new ways of thinking? Some of the greatest, game changing innovations came from front line employees who worked in organizations that recognized that a great idea can come from anywhere. The Egg McMuffin was the brainchild of a franchisee, and the Wal-Mart Greeter originated in a store in Louisiana that was having security issues. These are among countless other brand-defining innovations didn’t originate in the C-Suite.
If you’re putting the “no” in innovation, you’ll never know what you could be missing.