Top Ten Actions of Innovation Organizations
Actions speak louder than words.
Ten Actions of Innovative Organizations that you should be on the lookout for as you assess the viability of leadovation:
1. Displays a Market-Driven, Evolving, Relevant Strategy. Does your organization have a track record of change and evolving strategy? In this hyper-speed environment of today, it is imperative for organizations to adapt to and with the market and customer needs. If your organization has been holding on to its dying cash cow, with no track record of change, then it is probably one of the lucky ones that caught a passing trend and will go away like the Dodo.
2. Ranks as Market Leader, or at Least Top Five. External validation is often an indicator of reality. Although with the unicorn hype of today, you may start to wonder if the journalists, pundits, and market watchdogs have lost their minds.In the end, profitability and cash flow will always reveal the truth. Therefore, if your company is ranked in the top five or so in its category, you can safely say it has delivered at least some level of innovation.
3. Executes. Riding the coattails of number two (Ranks as Market Leader, or at Least Top Five), organizations that have secured market leader positions are known for execution. They deliver.
It is impossible to have a healthy balance sheet without executing. These organizations aren’t like the great Greek philosophers of ancient times, philosophizing about grandeur and circumstance. No way. These organizations “just do it.” Nike® would be proud.
4. Embodies an Environment of Trust. One of the hardest things to gain and easiest things to lose: Trust. Trust is the bedrock of innovation and change. Remember our addiction to risk mitigation and certainty? Trust is the only way to combat the big “F” word, Fear. Fear of failure is the number one reason why people and organizations don’t change or innovate. Many leaders talk about it. They even send managers and employees to failure camps and conferences to increase their comfort with fear, but too often those are just superficial actions. It is natural for everyone to be risk averse. No one wants to fail. But failure is a part of discovery.
5. Aligns Performance Measures and Reward Systems for Innovation and Teams. People do what they are incentivized to do. That is law; written in stone. It doesn’t always mean money. It can mean incentives, which could range from bragging rights, confidence, portfolio projects, and perhaps cash and prizes.
6. Communicates Clearly and Transparently the Strategic Direction and Execution Expectations. It’s ironic that communication is the leading cause of failure. It’s something we learn our whole lives to do and yet, repeatedly, organizations and individuals fail to clearly communicate strategy and direction. I’m not talking about that mission statement that is collecting dust or posted on a faded poster in the break room. That is not communicating. Stop kidding yourself. The communication box is NOT checked.
7. Encourages Autonomy. Freedom is a powerful motivator. Freedom to figure out a working solution, a product roll out, or just tweak an internal communication process, is the path to less middle school complaining and more productive, innovative adult output.
Watch out for organizations that hide their information, processes, or systems. It is a sure sign they are crushers. That need for control will always lead to bad decisions and the market will respond. Those organizations often spend millions, if not more, to develop a product, never asking a single customer’s input, and they will fail. Eventually that money and their position will fade with that behavior.
8. Demonstrates Flexibility. This attribute is loaded. Flexibility comes in all types. From flexible work arrangements, including remote working or nontraditional work hours, to project shares and job mobility. In 2013, this notion of a flexible, mobile workforce was brought into question, when Yahoo!® CEO Marissa Mayer shutdown the telecommuter policy at Yahoo! and gave remote workers an option — come in or get out. The official memo used the need for collaboration and speed as the drivers of the policy, but was that just business save-your-ass jargon? Insiders and analysts alike had their perspectives. There were debates on both sides of the issue.
9. Rocks the Confidence. The tone and behavior of executives and the overall culture of the organization define an organization’s confidence. The litmus test of a confident organization is in the way they react when they lose.
Don’t misinterpret confidence with arrogance. Ensure that the culture of your organization isn’t showing signs of complacency and entitlement. That is a red flag.
10. Promotes Real Innovation Efforts — Successes and Failures.
Here is an example of a company that embraces failures and successes and incorporates them both into a formal, disciplined feedback process. Pixar,® often referred to as the most successful creative enterprise, has openly shared its approach to failure and creative evolution process. Founder Ed Catmull explains that comparing an early idea to a finished product is a death move for creativity. He refers to the first few iterations of a character or story as “ugly babies.” It is up to the team to whole-heartedly turn that baby into a beauty. Everyone openly embraces starting points that some would view as failures and the evolutionary success from a massive team effort. This approach certainly works, since Pixar has earned 15 Academy Awards, averages $600 million a film, and all but one movie is listed within the Top 50 Highest Grossing Animated Movies.
Enjoyed these innovative leadership tips? Find more in my bestselling book The Innovation Revolution: Discover the Genius Hiding in Plain Sight – a practical guide to leading in the 21st century and creating a successful innovative culture in the enterprise.
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