Energizing Executive Innovation

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Energizing Executive Innovation

Category : 2018

“Let him that would move the world, first move himself.”
– Socrates

Any CEO in touch with reality will tell you that innovation is critical to a company’s enduring success. Surveys reveal that between 23 and 45 percent of CEOs place innovation as their top priority. If innovation holds a supreme place in the minds of C-level executives, why do many leaders stumble in their efforts to innovate themselves as they progress in their careers?

The failure to capture an opportunity to innovate was pivotal in the demise of companies like Blockbuster, Macy’s, Blackberry, Yahoo, and Kodak (who?). Apple’s $3 billion purchase of Beats and Facebook’s $19 billion investment in WhatsApp prove that there are few, if any, quick-fix innovations. Whether built or bought, a credible innovation needs a clear path to its salability, scalability, and profitability.

Businesses often fail because leaders fail. While the landscape of a market can be impacted by circumstance, the direction of an enterprise is determined by choice – the daily decisions of the executives leading a company.

The innovation conundrum emerges from the reality that what gets a leader to the C-suite is often not what enables a leader to succeed and stay there. Executives move up through organizations by solving problems and producing consistent-even predictable results. An executive’s career progresses when he/she is right much more often than wrong. Over time, it is not unusual to see a leader treat life more like an equation than the experiment that it is. While consistent process is critical to corporate success, an unwillingness to explore new options (a new process), is a sure route to joining the 460 companies that were on the original Fortune 500 list and are no longer there.

William Pollard is right. “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” To bring innovation to a company, or to innovate in one’s life, a leader needs to generate or get a lot of ideas, and develop a significant level of comfort with risk – as illustrated in the following Innovation Matrix.

The Innovation Matrix

 

Copyright © 2015, Joseph Jordan, Jordan Development, Inc.

This is not counsel to throw caution to the wind. We have a name for people who like risk and possess very few new ideas for generating either business or personal growth – they are gamblers, betting it all on one role or in one place.

Those who avoid all risk and lack ideas become defenders  -protecting what they have without any vision for what could be. They see mistakes as failures, not setbacks, so they avoid the unfamiliar and stay with what they know.

Some executives don’t lack for ideas, but their risk aversion keeps them in safe (predictable) territory. They might venture into the world of progressive innovation, but they more often adapt to what is than reach out for new possibilities. They’ll take a change in title, but avoid a significant change in responsibilities.

True innovators generate far more ideas than they ever implement, but their risk profiles allow them to embrace an idea, consider its validity, and pursue or reject it in a short span of time. Companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Samsung are known for their innovations because they are led by executives who embrace innovation at a personal level.

An executive wanting to offer impactful leadership a decade from now, will benefit from assessing his/her innovation profile, taking action to generate ideas of what a future leadership role might look like, and developing greater comfort with embracing the risk of growth and opportunity.