How to Lead Innovation

Innovation is not synonymous with change. There is a clear distinction between innovation and change. Change can be explained as simply a shift, movement, departure, or difference. However, innovation is more involved. 

What is innovation?

In The Innovator’s Mindset (2015), we learn that innovation has two qualifications. “Innovation can come from either ‘invention’ (something totally new) or ‘iteration’ (a change for something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of ‘new and better,’ it is not innovative.” 

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1996) provides us with some helpful visual references of astronomers, chemists, and composers. “The first astronomers, the first chemists, the first composers were not changing a domain but actually bringing one into being.” 

These references show the importance of new and paradigm-shifting work. As a People Leader, you serve a critical role in fostering innovation and shaping the future. 

  • Think about the relationships you foster inside and outside of the organization. 
  • Think about the culture you build and model for folks on your team.
  • Think about the way you communicate with others throughout your work.

Tips for Fostering Innovation

Here are a few helpful tips for fostering innovation. 

  1. Leverage tools and approaches – from the Futures Wheel to Appreciative Inquiry to Social Network Analysis and more. Invest time in learning tools and models you can leverage to capture ideas and facilitate brainstorming. 
  2. Be intentional and purposeful in your ideation approach. We must research and prioritize ideas to determine strategic fit. And ultimately create a strategy to bring a particularly innovative idea to life. 
  3. Recognize that innovation is not limited to a physical product – and innovation could be a new service, an internal process, or a method. 
  4. Communicate and extend trust – Communications and trust are essential to developing a team that collaborates and works in community together. 

Leader Reflection Question

I’ll ask you, how might you foster innovation within your organization? 

ready to strengthen the leadership of your team