Every great journey starts with a single step and if recent surveys are true, for 93% of executives that step is the acknowledgement that the long-term success of their organisation depends on their ability to innovate. Sadly for many that first step is the only one, which they will take as the desire for innovation crashes against the brick wall of “we’ve always done it this way” topped with the spikes of short-termism.
So where does it all go wrong? If 93% of executives believe in innovation (and what do the other 7% believe in), why do just 18% believe that their innovation strategy is delivering a competitive advantage? Well there are a lot of reasons for the failure to execute a fully integrated innovation culture but one of the prime reasons for innovation not taking hold is the way in which the CEO and the leadership team set out to introduce innovation throughout the organisation.
Let’s get one thing clear at the start. In modern business parlance, innovation is not just a few boffins sitting in a darkened room. Strategic innovation is an organisation-wide drive to align every process and every person with the delivery of genuinely new products, offers and exceptional customer experiences. Innovation means removing silos, working together and standing above the crowd not for what you sell but for how you sell. So moving towards an innovation mindset is not always an easy challenge for employees to master. And for managers, this means taking the time to devise a coaching strategy, which will enthuse and encourage as it transforms mindsets and approaches.
The senior team may be responsible for the initial drive, becoming ‚Innovation Leaders‘ but ultimately success or failure rests with middle management. No more and no less than the vein of gold which runs through the organisation, middle managers and team leaders are not only the keepers of the history and culture of the organisation they are also either the greatest enablers or the greatest barriers to change and driving innovation. So the first step for senior teams is to engage middle management in the ideals, behaviours and thought processes, which will drive the change, required for innovation. This not only requires changed mindsets, it will also ultimately require managers to be given the tools they need to coach their teams in order to embracing innovation.
Being honest, embracing new thought patterns won’t come easily to some. 58% of business leaders in large UK companies admit their senior teams are failing to effectively lead for innovation. If the percentage is that high in the top echelons which have already embraced the need for change, how much harder can it be for middle managers who have first to assimilate the innovation ideal before learning how to coach for success. But for successful outcomes, the key is in the word ‘coach.’ If you want an innovation culture you can’t train, you can’t direct, you can’t instruct. If you want to change mindsets you can only coach and that means understanding people, recognising patterns of behaviour and working together to engage hearts and minds in what is in truth a totally new approach.
As a thought leader and innovation consultant I can’t emphasise enough the importance of changing mindsets through coaching rather than by direction. If you want to embrace a culture of innovation then every member of the team from CEO to newest recruit has to be engaged and enthused about the power of innovation and creating exceptional experiences. If you want to learn more about how embracing a culture of innovation can transform your organisation get in touch.
Everyone says they want or need to drive innovation-led growth but few actually do. If you want to be one of the few and you’ve got a question or you’d like to know more about becoming a Next Generation Organisation, email Cris at email@example.com or browse the site further for more information.
Originally written for @TrainingZone on the 27th June 2014.