Mai 19

Developing Innovation Leaders by looking at Mother Nature

Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better

Albert Einstein.

Far more than simply a physicist, Einstein, like Leonardo Da Vinci and other geniuses before him understood that the world of nature can teach us much if we only take the time to stop and observe. Yes we may have taken the beliefs of our ancestors in the power of tree bark to cure headaches and translated that into aspirin, but it is only recently that we have started to use what we see around us as a basis for invention. So we now have things like self-cleaning tape based on the feet of geckoes and boat hulls based on sharkskin.

But aside from practical inventions we can also learn much about behavioural patterns from observing nature. Zappos may have drawn headlines recently with its decision to scrap managers but how different is its new structure to that of an ant colony in which all work on their own tasks for the collective benefit of the whole? The Zappos model may be a step too far for some, but nature can also teach us about leadership and interactions and about working to create the best outcome.

Sadly far too often those lessons are ignored. So we train our leaders to make decisions, to expect to be obeyed and we structure our organisations to follow rigid unbending rules and pathways. But this way leads to autocracy, to an organisation, which may have a clear vision, but one, which is delivered in fear, reluctance and isolation.

How much better would it be to have a leader who understands that with a measure of freedom comes an enhanced outcome? What steps are we taking to develop our leaders so that they have the understanding and wisdom to embrace a different way of working, an innovative way that encourages intelligence, collaboration and adaptability? Can we learn from nature and work together for the good of all?

Well, yes we can, but for an innovation culture to be successful it has to infuse the entire organisation. And in a leadership-led organisation this means that before innovation can even get off the ground the senior teams have to learn to embrace an entirely new way of thinking; one in which failure is treated as a learning point, one in which design thinking and informed creativity is leveraged to co-create differentiated products, services and customer experiences.

Why should we bother? Why not stick to the old ways in which leaders are taught to develop strategies, to dictate and to rule? Quite simply, because those ways don’t drive innovation and only feed straight into a product/service, which is exactly the same as every other and which will fail as soon as the market moves on. The song of a nightingale, the plumage of a robin; nature has given every bird species something unique which helps it to stand out from the crowd. We can learn from that.

The reality is that with every organisation able to access the same levels of technology and manufacturing, have a voice on the internet etc. the playing field is more level than ever before. So, organisations need to be looking at the next wave of differentiation, one no longer exclusively about new products but one that will focus on ‘how’ they do things not what they do, one that drives innovation around experiences. And being agile, creating exceptional customer experiences requires a move not just in innovation focus but also to an innovation culture. For this to succeed we need to develop leaders at every level of the organisation to embrace innovation, to develop the self-confidence, to take charge, to behave differently and in new ways.

Succeed, and the leadership has created an agile, innovative organisation which displays such a positive ethos that it positively affects employees, customers, suppliers and the wider world. Fail and the organisation is left trudging on, void of innovation, keeping its employees on a tight leash in gloom and misery.

Everyone says they want or need to drive innovation but few actually do. If you want to be one of the few and an innovation-leading organisation, get in touch. For information on how Cris and his team can help you drive innovation Click here or if you’ve got a question? Ask Cris…



Adaptability, Competitive Advantage, Innovation Expert, Innovation Leadership, Innovation strategy, Leadership

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