In our personal lives we have an option, however limiting certain choices can be, to decide whether to innovate, to keep up with the latest everything, or not. I don’t necessarily need or want to have all the latest things; sometimes old things work quite well. When I sit in a friend’s brand-new car, I may be impressed with the 100 newest upgrades but simultaneously I love my 2005 Lexus which looks shiny inside and out, almost new, with 170,000 miles on it and it actually has a design I prefer to the 2019 model. The only upgrade I would desire is the back-up feature and I am able to get just that added if I so desire.
In business however, innovation is what keeps us afloat. New marketing or branding styles, new products, new approaches to offering those products, etc. are all required if we are to be successful.
Ironically, that absolutely necessary quality can also be the one element that is most in danger. What I see happening is that when a company hires innovators, Thought Leaders, folks whose gift is to think out of the box, to explore the unknown and make it a key to success, the company also demands that they follow the old patterns of working, behaving and thinking. Nobody seems to notice the irony.
Frequently innovators are loners. They need space to think out of the box and it doesn’t always happen by Tuesday at 9:30am. They may do well in a think tank with others’ but they rarely do well when they are “promoted” to team leader.
They may have limited social skills, and rarely do they possess the detail-focused skills needed to be an effective team leader. Thought leadership is as valuable a gift as is team leadership to an organization, however, it is a dramatically different skill set.
The old ideas of what leadership looks like, and the linear path to success up the one ladder, a clearly defined wrung at a time, no longer applies. Know your people, your leaders, and allow them to help you define what success looks like to them before setting them up to fail. Innovation in leadership, not just product development or presentation is required.
The C Suite, the SVP and VP of talent acquisition, those in HR and elsewhere, need to recognize this fact if they are going to be able to best utilize their innovators for maximum impact. Isn’t impact the reason you wanted them in the first place?
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