01 Roles and skills required by the innovation process.
- Leaders and execs are responsible for the tasks of product or service ideation and creation.
- Team leaders will serve as project leaders who are responsible for the processes and management of the participants.
- Middle managers become connectors and promoters, while providing support to innovation teams.
- Operations managers help develop the innovation strategy and manage the portfolio of new products, processes and services
- High level management shape culture and strategy, while communicating the vision of the innovation process to the rest of the organization.
Understanding the different abilities of members to stimulate the innovation process according to levels will forces leaders to focus on their responsibilities, and helps the formation and building of innovation process objectives. This is an initial empathy exercise that must be maintained over time.
02 Focus on an innovation process
Innovation process carried out in companies should not be considered a random or unstructured activity, but sadly many other companies for sure do.
Since the aforementioned innovation process requires people with an innovative spirit and disruptive mindset working along together towards a common goal generally based on the end user, understanding and clarifying the challenge, generating and refining ideas, developing solutions and plans, and finally putting in practice innovation for measurable benefits.
These four steps –explore, ideate, elaborate and implement- applied to a common objective delivers up the innovation process, which can be applied to any requirement in the area of solving needs, problems, issues or just product/services improvements.
Once leaders have understood how the innovation process works, they can identify what is going wrong and, as with any other leadership challenge, create a strategy or plan to improve it.
03 Identify and leverage contributions to the innovation process
If we think in innovation as a process, with different steps and stages to be achieved and addressed, then leaders can understand how different skills, perspectives, and contributions will be needed along the way.
Many companies repeatedly use a work and evaluation tool called FourSight, which is based on the research of Dr. Gerard Puccio, director of the International Center for Creativity Studies at the University of New York.
FourSight resembles the innovation process by identifying four types of thinking that help understand the team’s preferences and perspectives that contribute to the innovation process.
- Clarifiers who are dedicated to exploring the challenge to understand and refine it.
- Ideators who prefer to generate opportunities and ideas.
- The Developers who are the ones who focus on the development and planning of possible solutions.
- The Implementers who are those who prefer to implement feasible solutions.
04 Work across borders
Innovation is a multidisciplinary activity. And, leaders in charge of carrying out the execution of the innovation process, must learn to work across the borders between organizations, areas and business units connecting with each other:
Ideas with ideas, ideas with people, and people with people.
Innovation process needs leaders who influence, connect and collaborate with people who have different styles or preferences and/or references of what the innovation process is.
Without these capabilities, borders, bureaucracy, and hierarchy can easily wipe out innovation efforts.
05 Accept polarities
Paradoxes and competing priorities must be approached more from an open mind than as a disruptive exercise to polarity rather than from a problem-solving attitude.
Imagine, for example, a senior manager who is considering whether to deliver immediate results or, failing that, whether to promote a novel process. If he does it from a problem-solving-oriented attitude, there will be no clear answer for him.
And the same for a mid-level manager who is deliberating how to allocate resources for the business and maintain current flow, while at the same time advocating for innovation projects whose performance is unknown.
Polarized Thinking, developed by Barry Johnson, helps innovation leaders determine how to understand and react to issues with no fixed solutions, and to address competing perspectives and interests.