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Create capable and accountable leaders 

Too often innovation is left to specialised units like the innovation lab or corporate R&D rather than being the responsibility of every leader. If leaders are not made formally accountable for innovation and have innovation-related targets that affect their compensation, a culture of innovation will be marginalised.

Naturally, it makes little sense to hold leaders accountable for innovation if they haven’t been trained and coached to encourage innovation within their own teams. Through selection, training, and feedback, successful organisations create a cadre of leaders who are as adept at fostering innovation, as they are at running the business.

Any cultural change is challenging but committing to the journey of building and sustaining a culture of innovation is particularly difficult, for three reasons: 

  1. Innovative cultures require the combination and balancing of ten seemingly paradoxical components. If not managed carefully they risk creating confusion.

  2. Some of the ten components required in building a culture of innovation are relatively easy to embrace, others are less palatable. People who view innovation as a free-for-all will see the necessary rigours of discipline as a constraint to their creativity. Some people will resist a shift toward individual accountability. When taken as a whole, some people will readily embrace the ten components of innovation and the new rules they require. But others will not thrive. It should therefore not be surprising, that there will be people inside your organisation, particularly those thriving under the existing culture, who will resist. Leadership needs to be ready for this, otherwise things will remain business as usual.

  3. Innovative cultures cannot be implemented in a piecemeal fashion. They require a systematic approach to co-ordinate interdependent behaviours. We’ve listed ten components that require thoughtful management and explored how these components need balancing in order to complement and reinforce one another within your organisation. 

Here are some actions you can take:

  • All senior leaders need to be educated as to what innovation means and how this impacts behaviours and expectations

  • Develop a Senior Leadership Innovation L&D programme. This programme should be mandatory for all senior leaders

  • Build innovation behaviours into the recruitment and selection processes for new leaders coming into the organisation or being promoted internally.