5 Ways Leaders Foster Innovation

Fostering Innovation

Leadership innovation happens all around us. As technology and tools improve exponentially over time, the ways that dreams come true continue to amaze.

Last week, innovation took the stage at the Frankfurt Automobile Show.  Dieter Zetsche, the chief executive of Daimler, sprang from the back of a Mercedes S-Class that had no one in the driver’s seat.

Autonomous driving technology, once a dream of science fiction writers and filmmakers, may be accessible to consumers in the next 10 years.

This is innovation in motion!

Organizational Innovation

Dieter Zetsche isn’t alone in trying to build an organization that innovates.  We live in an innovation driven world. Leaders must know how to create an environment that fuels innovation.

So what are you doing to encourage innovation in your organization?

Here are 5 ways to get you started…

5 Ways Leaders Foster Innovation

1) Allow Time to Experiment 

Overloaded employees focus on the basics.  They have to get it done and move on to the next task.  Ask people to focus on innovation and then give them time – and some mental space – to focus on how it could be.

2) Create Diverse Teams 

Hearing another point of view is a great way to spark innovation. Teams of people with different backgrounds, passions, and capabilities have an added edge in developing innovative ideas.

3) Reward the Right Kind of Failure 

Sometimes, people hold on to their ideas because they don’t want to rock the boat. They are concerned about being viewed as a failure, or worse, if their idea is not successful.

Finding fault and assigning blame, on the other hand, creates a situation where people become stuck and paralyzed. It’s a negative approach that assumes neglect or malfeasance that requires punishment. This type of attitude produces a risk-averse organization where people play it safe instead of stepping out and trying new ideas. – Ken Blanchard, Fast Company

You’ll never find the ways things do work without finding the ways that won’t work first.  And no one will help you find the things that will work if they are afraid of the consequences of failure.  So reward innovative ideas and behaviors, even when the results is less than expected.

4) Manage Risk 

Innovation can’t happen without risk, but leading innovation doesn’t mean you are willing to entertain any and all risks.  It is critical that you identify risk in your plans and then work on risk management.  Being proactive in this area can build your confidence to tackle bigger projects with even bigger payoffs.

5) Focus on Trust 

Trust is required to challenge the status quo.  Trust also facilitates idea sharing and increases speed of partnerships.  How important is trust in innovation?  The authors of Nanovation: How a Little Car Can Teach the World to Think Big and Act Bold discuss trust as a key ingredient that helped the team that designed the Tata Nano do what seem impossible:

To do what Team Nano did, there had to be a steady flow of seemingly off the wall ideas among its members.  But people are willing to be vulnerable and “put it out there” only if they trust each other.

Finally, leaders who want to foster innovation must be role models of innovative behaviors.  Think about all the ways you can demonstrate to your team that you are personally committed to innovation.  Pick a few and put them into action.

Have you worked in an environment that encourages innovation?  What helps you generate new ideas?  What do you think the best bosses do to help their teams innovate? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Melissa Lanier

Melissa Lanier leads Global Talent Management for an S&P SmallCap 600 Firm
She is driven to build High Performing Cultures Aligned to Strategy
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L2L Contributing Author

1 Comment

  1. Melissa Lanier on September 18, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Reblogged this on HR Outsider and commented:
    Innovation surrounds us – yet many leaders are searching for ways to encourage their teams to innovate. Check out my new blog post on Linked2Leadership – focused on helping leaders foster innovation.