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Suggestions for Leaders to Make Innovation More Rewarding

With innovation key to success, it’s important to foster curiosity and create a culture that encourages and empowers people to bring new ideas to the table with breakthroughs that meaningfully improve outcomes. This is essential for the organization to benefit from disruption – versus being a victim of it ! 

With many leaders understanding the importance of this, the following are suggestions to achieve it – 

1. Have a “ Coaching Leadership Style “

With this, utilize a performance review, the need to make a course correction (pivot), or a challenging situation as a “Coachable Moment” to – improve their look ahead, learn faster, develop their strategic thinking and the mindset to innovate for impact, expand their knowledge of business and understanding of people, etc.  In conjunction with this show – empathy, how to think and look at things, interest in them, how to explore and be creative, etc. This is needed to learn from experiences plus increase their awareness and confidence – and not dwell on issues or poor performance. 

2. Let the Team Determine the ‘ How ’

The leader needs to set the goal and enable the team to determine the “ how ” to make it happen. Ask people for suggestions and collaborate with them to develop their ideas and thinking style.

3. Provide a Safe Space for Innovation & Ideation

Enable people to explore opportunities, share ideas and concerns, be excited about reaching goals, etc.  With this, encourage creativity and new thinking about possibilities, etc.  And to learn from failure.

4. Be good at Listening

Lead discussions with questions getting feedback on observations.

5. Bridge Silos and Build Trust

This is achieved by – empowering people, being good at identifying opportunities and risks, solving problems, etc. by making new connections with more options to achieve results. With this, bring together groups who don’t typically collaborate to – gain new perspectives, address mutual concerns, assist in addressing each others’ issues or problems, etc. – in a way that is both productive, enjoyable and rewarding.

6. Reward Innovation Successes and Learnings

In addition to rewarding “ Successes ”, “ Learnings ” from failures are  also important.  Together this develops better “ Look Ahead ”, builds confidence, and the skills needed to deliver new products and services.

7. Learn a Lot from Failure

Getting good at innovation means dealing with many failures caused by – lack of understanding (markets, value, products, people, the ability to effect change), unsuccessful experiments, limitations (yours and others), unexpected behavior, mis-reading situations, surprises, pain, etc. To get past these issues it’s essential to – learn fast, be humble, keep trying / exploring / analyzing, getting back up, etc.

8. Utilize New Technologies and Models

To demonstrate what is possible, use new technologies and models that deliver meaningful results, are inspirational, reward curiosity and innovation, etc. For example, highlight how AI or Visualization software can deliver significant benefits by improving the timeliness and quality of decision making. Once in place, the organization is much more entrepreneurial with the ability to be better at – managing change, look ahead, scoping opportunities, creating new capabilities, scaling the business, assessing risk, etc.

9. Offer Different Contribution Modalities

Multiple innovation approaches and processes should be in place to recognize people have different abilities, interests, preferences, etc. This could include an anonymous form, innovation discussions, team meetings, private sessions, ideation initiatives, competitions for the best idea(s), etc.

10. Create a Psychologically Safe Environment

Creating a psychologically safe environment in the workplace is the key to people feeling they can speak up, voice their ideas and ask questions, etc. This is important to promote an entrepreneurial and innovative culture with curious minds and an openness to change. For this to occur, leaders need to provide a psychologically safe environment that shows empathy, avoiding blame, and building trust with an inclusive decision-making process.

11. Put Innovative Ideas into Action

Creating a system for people to contribute ideas, having transparency and metrics to evaluate ideas, providing a mechanism to reward the good suggestions, etc. – go a long way in building an innovative culture and . Finally, the innovative culture is sustained and strengthened when those ideas are tested and put into action, preferably with the person who contributed the idea being on the implementation team. 

12. Create Space for Courageous Conversations 

The most important initiative any leader can do is to create a space for people to share ideas and have courageous conversations. The space should enable people to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and addressing, opposing, or making controversial points of view.  To help with this, have participants listen to suggestions and indicate what they find interesting as well as summarizing the major pros and cons.

13. Host a ‘ Question Hall ’

Host a “ Question Hall ” where people come with questions for the Innovation team to better understand and appreciate innovation progress, the metrics, and expected outcomes from the proposed solutions or new capabilities, etc. With this recognize Innovation is about challenging the status quo and exploring new ways to create opportunity and wealth. For example, encourage questions that ask –

  • What if we did it this way – instead of how we do it now ? 
  • What new digital service(s) would deliver meaningful new benefits ? 
  • Where is the money going to be ? 
  • What will give us competitive advantage ?
  • What will it take to generate the next $ billion in revenue ?
  • What do we need to do to double margin ?
  • etc. 

…. with healthy conversations around different perspectives and options to achieve the desired results.

14. Have the Team involved in Decision Making

Challenge people by soliciting their feedback and ideas in an engaging style to fast track developing the mindset to “Innovate for Impact ”, becoming a more entrepreneurial organization, and being accountable for results.

Nov 8, 2022  –  Forbes / CAIL  –  Innovation commentary