Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Innovation Outperformer?

Posted by Jon Hall on Nov 10, 2014

iStock 000039433878 FullIn our last post, Innovation: Creativity, Structure, Process & Renewal Capability Required, we discussed how to evaluate your organization’s current state of innovation based on the six principles of renewal capability, two of which we’ll talk about here: Leadership, and Learning Orientation.

We felt a strong affinity for the study cited in that post because it aligned so well with and reinforced the findings of a study SpencerHall commissioned focusing on Predictors of Innovation Performance. That study identified a link between specific corporate attitudes and actions and the most successful innovation companies – what we call “innovation outperformers.”

Today, we’re going to review what the dimensions of Leadership and Learning Orientation look like in the innovation outperformers, and provide guidance that will help you apply their successes to your renewal capability performance.

Leadership & Learning Orientation Dimensions

To help your organization identify the priorities involved in optimizing your innovation structure, we suggested in the last post that you ask yourself these questions: “How committed and supportive is your leadership in the innovation process? Are they clear and decisive in articulating the integration and role of innovation in overall vision and strategic direction? Do they verbally and through their actions demonstrate a drive and willingness to take risks – and possibly fail?”

According to the study SpencerHall commissioned to understand how successful companies approach innovation, we found the following:

  • The single most significant driver across all outperforming companies was senior management support. If the innovation team isn’t given tangible and well-articulated signals that innovation is an important and necessary priority within the company, members will become cynical about both participating and potential results. An example of the kind of support that reinforces the priority placed on your efforts: your CMO holds a company-wide webinar to showcase the innovation team’s ongoing progress, wins, new learning, and significant milestones
  • All outperformers positioned participation in the innovation team as a reward for high achievement elsewhere in the company – as a special, sought-after perk. Risk of participating, on the other hand, is low or non-existent
  • Effective innovators lay out aggressive goals for innovation. Bold goals emphasize the value and importance of what the team is doing and typically work to motivate them (unless those goals are so grandiose as to be unachievable)
  • Outperformers consistently study their failures as closely as their successes. Insightful consideration of failures helps them understand why a concept didn’t/can’t work and, consequently, gets them closer to a breakthrough idea. Celebrating the key learning from a “good fail” also closes the loop on support of innovation and the risk/reward balance leadership is striving for

We also asked the question, “When it comes to experimentation, is it encouraged or are results and immediate wins made the priority?” 

According to the Predictors of Innovation Performance study, outperformers are far more likely to have created a highly stimulating office atmosphere – bright colors, rooms filled with furniture, equipment and supplies that foster collaboration, and a store of materials that spark ideation and “play.” They purposefully exposed team members to unexpected and non-traditional thinking; they embrace, not restrict, divergent ideas and styles.  

Finally, we asked the question, “Do HR and reward systems reinforce the desired innovation culture and results orientation?”

Outperforming innovators take fear out of their environment. By removing restrictions and resistance, team members feel free to pursue unconventional ideas and think expansively…even whimsically. Outlandish ideas are welcomed and used as starting points to construct idea “fish bones” because outperformers know that some of the best results of brainstorming sessions come after one “out there” idea is built on…and built on some more.

As you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses based on some of the input we’ve given here related to Leadership and Learning Orientation, you’ll be able to begin modifying what you’re doing and be more likely to build the type of innovation structure and culture that produces breakthrough ideas and, eventually, give your organization a competitive advantage. Be sure to read next week’s blog, where we’ll cover two more dimensions of innovation, Connectivity and Knowledge Management.

Topics: innovation, culture of innovation, product innovation