Innovation – Individual or team effort – "Collective Leadership"

Today I read an interesting blog article on Innovation which starts with:

    “To generate creative business ideas, breakthrough innovators must be fiercely tested and wisely deployed (…) Truly innovative people are rare. Perhaps, 5% or 10% of the high potential managers within a company at any given time have the skills and attributes to become innovators.”Read Jeffrey Cohn, Jon Katzenbach, and Gus Vlack’s paper, “Finding and Grooming Breakthrough Innovators,” on HBR.” 

The author of the piece José de Francisco López goes on to say:

    “Interestingly enough the above article also states that most companies develop leaders who are better at replicating than innovating, thus struggling to create new opportunities and to get the business ahead of the curve: “rising stars realize that to be promoted, they need to mirror incumbent leaders (…) even when stellar external talent comes in it is frequently drawn into the same anti-innovation culture that has been squelching internal talent.”The article goes on to portray an “innovator’s profile” failing to realize that innovators’ personalities and behaviours can be as diverse as the sources of innovation. In any case, it is true that most creative people wrestle with tensions when challenging the status quo. Innovating means going back and forth between working in isolation and working with others to get things done.”

Why do so many approaches to innovation and innovation in leadership focus on the skills, knowledge and behaviour of one individual. We have tried management models of hierarchy, leadership, transformational leadership etc.. now is the time for leaders to maximise their performance by team working, where that team may be 2 or 22 people. It is about harnessing strengths in the “collective”, and this means a new form of leadership – “Collective leadership” where the individual who is the leaders is not there for them-self, but for the success of the community (what ever that means).

For Collective leaders to be effective we need executive innovation to be a part of the organisations culture.

Byrd and Brown in their book “The Innovation Equation” identify eight orientations of behaviour towards innovation, in the model (The Creatrix) rather than just take a traditional approach of looking at the profile of the individual, it is the team and organizational culture that is the difference that makes the difference.

The language of innovation is also important – everyone understanding what innovation means to each individual in their role, the Creatrix model helps to provide so of that language. For example, in this models an “innovator” is a person who harnesses creativity and takes action and risk to see the outcome through. This is a rare combination. What the model also allows for is for the individual with high drive for achievement and action to work with a creative to implement the idea, thus a team approach is born. the model allows for an unlimited mix of strengths to be harnessed to deliver innovation at all leveus from executives through to customer facing people. This approach take innovation away from process and puts it in behavioural terms, terms that are tangible and can be developed in OD change programmes easily.


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