There is good reason for that. Here’s why. We must think about how organizations are structured. Organizations solve for ways to increase revenue and enhance profit margins. The focus is on delivery, execution and results. Metrics allow for quarterly reporting with accountability to the board and company shareholders.
Efforts are short term focused. Employees are rewarded for this kind of focus. Development plans, mid year reviews, and year end bonuses are all embedded with delivering on task. In essence if you meet your targets you get to keep your job. Of course how you went about achieving those targets goes into the mix. Your partnering and collaboration skills and ability to develop your team is essential. If you can do both, then your rating and bonus will be at the higher end.
Based upon the speed of technological advances and consumer savvy, organizations must be more nimble than ever. If not, they will be yesterday’s solution. Companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google foster a culture of innovation.
When I chat with my client organizations they generally push back and remark that innovation works for specific types of industry sectors. They then go on to explain that they are in the business of pharma, biotech, financial products etc. They emphasize that a key differentiator is the requirement of regulatory controls and quality assurance.
Implicit is the suggestion that only certain industries can afford a culture that pushes boundaries and fosters curiosity. I would argue that there isn’t an industry sector that can afford not to be nimble.
Where does an organization begin particularly if they want to compete in the long term? The answer resides in the type of talent a company hires and promotes. Of course attributes such as hard work, resilience and sophisticated interpersonal skills remain crucial.
Companies though need a wake up call. Organizations must imbed innovation as part of their culture. When we consider innovation our instinctual reaction is to think about game changing disruption. Although most businesses aspire to that ideal, the type of innovation I am referring to is a leadership and cultural mindset.
Leaders must create a climate that rewards creativity. Employees must be encouraged to ask great questions and challenge the status quo. If you blindly execute because that is the framework for how things get done, valuable opportunities will be missed.
Think about the typical team meeting. Directs go around the table and give a status update on their latest initiatives. The primary focus is on how objectives are tracking and aligned with set targets. Dialogue between team members and a sharing of ideas is seen as a luxury taking away valuable time required to execute.
Companies that are on the forefront and have the ability to remain competitive foster an environment where leaders seek to challenge, are contrarians, and do not blindly accept the status quo. They thrive on active dialogue, debate and unique solutions.
This dialogue serves to push boundaries. By asking great questions a different culture emerges, one that rewards leaders for bringing new ideas and creative approaches to business challenges. These organizations are not afraid to allow employees to fail. In fact it’s encouraged. Failure creates learning, an ability to pivot, and pursue necessary change.
Most top tier companies invest in leadership profiles that benchmark incoming candidates as well as successors on fairly standard leadership attributes. Rarely do companies measure for an innovative mindset. Just think what would happen if they did?
A whole host of attributes would be selected for that includes an ability to challenge the status quo, possession of an innate sense of curiosity, the ability to think creatively, and the capability to be a fluid thinker.
We often speak about “daring to be different”. The irony is that companies that are truly innovative would not regard themselves as “daring”. Their company ethos promotes leaders who take good risks and stay nimble through an innovative leadership lens.
When employees are excited about the companies they work for, their passion is not necessarily about the discovery or development of the next new shiny toy. Their passion is about being immersed in an environment that rewards curiosity and adopts new approaches.
One of my clients asked me to assess their top talent pool from the perspective of not only having the ability to adapt to change but rather to be catalysts and instigators for disequilibrium. This executive had it right by creating the future now.
Leaders that foster, value, and reward innovation are imperative to an organization. It is critical for companies to attract the right kinds of leaders to help position their business for ongoing success.
Leading edge organizations breed, and promote leaders who’s DNA is about survival of the fittest. In this case, survival of the fittest is not about brute strength. It is creating a culture that rewards innovative mindsets. Agile leaders are the true architects of both new and sustainable business offerings.
By Cindy Wahler