We all know innovation is essential for driving business growth and helping to differentiate your organization from key competitors. But it’s not enough to simply talk about innovation, or urge employees to “think outside the box.”
Your company leaders need to model innovation skills in immediate, everyday ways. If you’re not sure how successful they are in this effort, here’s a quick test:
Are your leaders challenging the status quo by asking open-ended questions?
How many of your meetings follow the same rote agenda? Are you simply tracking numbers or looking at them in different ways? Are you just working to correct problems and ease frustrations, or are you devoting any time to totally disruptive ideas? The ability to ask eye-opening questions is a critical innovation skill.
Do your leaders spend time observing people and practices (outside their direct line of management)?
At Quantum, we’re always emphasizing time management skills, and with good reason. Today’s executives are busier than ever—bouncing between conference calls, business trips, board meetings… But leaders still need to make room for ground-floor observation. This is where the simplest, most effective seeds of change can often be discovered.
Do your leaders embrace experimentation?
Strategic experimentation is a leading innovation skill. Leaders who experiment (with forethought, controls, and measurement tools in place) can uncover more actionable opportunities than a dozen random brainstorming sessions. Embracing experimentation also means being flexible when employees want to try new routes and processes.
Are your leaders well-rounded?
This might sound more like a personal trait than a professional skill, but well-roundedness helps leaders engage in “associational thinking,” or the ability to bridge concepts from disparate fields. If you’ve ever heard Seth Godin speak, you know how he draws parallels between art, music, science, history, and business—with stunning clarity. Today’s leaders need context that extends beyond their office walls. Steady doses of outside reading, networking, and physical activity can support well-roundedness.
If you think you or your leadership team may be lacking in any of these areas, it’s time to develop your innovation skill set. In the process, you’ll inspire an innovative culture within your entire organization. Get started here: