When considering innovation in your business or creative life, it's easy to get so caught up in the fuzzy, catch-phrase laden mentality that you forget the nuts and bolts of bringing true change to your work. But innovation leadership is more than just feel-good slogans and extra meetings with focus groups.
In a recent article in Forbes, Henry Doss offers some interesting tools for developing, managing and quantifying your innovation leadership strategies. While the concepts of innovation may be fuzzy, the incorporation of innovation requires concrete strategy, relevant measurements, and new thinking.
Doss suggests five ideas to help move your innovation strategy from “chasing shiny objects” to a powerful, sustainable cultural change.
- Innovation is not output. When thinking about innovation, you must be forward-thinking. If you're focused on output, you've already placed your focus in the past. Innovation focuses on opportunities; output is the result of these opportunities.
- Innovation leadership is about measurements. To avoid becoming lost in feel-good, fuzzy rhetoric (with no substantial impact), it's important to develop real and relevant measurements. When it comes to measuring things like trust, improved communications, and the like, that can be a real challenge.
- Strategic importance is inversely proportional to ease of measurement. It's easy when designing metrics to look to what you're already doing. But innovation requires that you look beyond what you already know, and tackle the truly difficult questions. As Doss put it, “If something is already known and measured, it is likely less important to innovation than what is not known, and not measured.”
- That you measure is as important as what you measure. As you develop your innovation strategy, Doss says, it's important to keep your focus on leading (or cultural) indicators, rather than lagging (or output) indicators. Innovation is breaking new ground, and sometimes you'll have to try out several measures before you find the right one. It's better to try several different measures than to give up and focus on what's already been done.
- A culture of innovation is caused by intentional leadership. Innovation doesn't just happen. And maintaining a culture of innovation requires strong commitment, focus, and a clear strategy from leaders. Otherwise, it's easy to get lost in the minutiae of daily life, focusing on output rather than innovation.
To make a true commitment to innovation leadership. leaders can't just jump in feet first and hope things will sort themselves out. To succeed and avoid the fuzzy thinking, you need to take the time to develop your strategy, define the right measurements and not be afraid of the tackling the unknown.