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All about Innovation Leadership

· To have a vision for change. Without guidance from the leader, team members will not know where they should direct their innovation efforts. In my opinion, this is fundamental.

· Communicate the innovation message. It is critical that actions back up the words. So, more than merely communication, it needs to be a statement of commitment and intent. It needs to be supported through a real demonstrable plan of action which is promoted throughout the organisation. This is the second most important aspect. If, as leader, you do not demonstrate your strongest commitment to innovation, other members of the organisation will not believe in it.

· Set goals for innovation. This is tied in with needing a vision for change. Both of these manage where efforts are directed. The old cliché of what gets measured, gets done is accurate here. So select your goals, and how they are measured carefully.

· Set expectations. Rather than set easy targets, set stretch targets. The latter will ensure that team members will look for more radical solutions, rather than follow the herd.

· Throw down a challenge. This is a successful way of stimulating people’s efforts and galvanising action. To work, such a challenge just be just that.

· Overcome the fear of change. People are naturally apprehensive about change. We all fear the unknown. We are all reluctant to take risks, particularly if we are penalised for doing so. We all question the need to reinvent the wheel. Success can often work against innovation! So dealing with a fear of change is a key objective. Messages are critical – ‘let’s not be complacent’, ‘we are doing well, but we need to do better’, ‘if we don’t find new ways to reach and delight our customers, then others will do it for us’, ‘there is a risk in innovating, but there is a bigger risk in standing still’, etc. These leaders will not only push such messages, but will also listen and deal with the concerns of their people.

· Encourage dissent, but get rid of the cynics. Dissent can open up new ideas, as long as it is constructive dissent. Tom Peters: “Innovation comes from angry and driven people”. Balance this encouragement of dissent with getting rid of the cynics. Cynics can be toxic to the innovation process. Such negative energy can undermine the energy and commitment and passion of the whole team.

· Break down internal barriers. Get rid of the silo mentality which often pervades larger organisations. Office politics is also reduced.

· Be passionate. People will not follow an unenthusiastic leader!