Steve Jobs once said that innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower, and he was right in many ways. But I’d add that while innovation may define a leader, a leader also creates innovation. In fact, today’s most effective leaders are those who have learned how to spur the growth of innovation across their organizations and throughout their teams.
With the simple first step of valuing the process of problem-finding, leaders can begin to create a climate of innovation. Organizations that deliberately practice the art of problem finding are likely to encounter and anticipate the opportunities and customer desires that will lead to new solutions and new products that redefine their market sector.
Successful leaders focus their efforts on removing the roadblocks that stand in the way of corporate innovation. They break down departmental silos and encourage collaboration; they disrupt routines that encourage ‘business as usual’; and they seek new technologies and methods that can improve what they do and how they do it. They take calculated risks to venture into the unknown, and when something doesn’t work out as expected, they consider it a learning opportunity to build on, not an occasion for fixing blame.
In today’s rapidly changing marketplace, innovation not only distinguishes between leaders and followers, but frequently also distinguishes between success and failure.