While innovation is essential for the growth and survival of a business, many leaders don't feel equipped with the resources or expertise required to innovate—or, even worse, they don't recognize the importance of innovation for their company.

At a recent Innov8rs Connect event, Stefan Lindegaard broke down the challenges facing organizations when it comes to innovation and how to upgrade executives for supporting innovation.

Here's the full session recording, with a summary below.

What Holds Your Company Back on Innovation?

It's not enough to focus on barriers: you have to address the root causes of the issues, which is difficult because they often start at the top. Identifying and working on those root causes takes time and resources that many executives do not have—or do not allocate appropriately. Many leaders spend most of their energy (about 80-95 percent of it) on day-to-day tasks. That leaves as little as five percent of their time to devote to activities that shape the future. A 70/30 split is more appropriate if you want to see growth.

Stefan identifies specific "types" of executives that are not prepared to innovate. If you notice these traits or attitudes among your leadership team, you need to recognize them as obstacles to innovation and take action to change that person's approach to your business.

  • No Problem: These leaders don't believe there's a problem with innovation. They think your organization is already doing everything it needs to do to innovate.
  • No Need: They don't believe innovation is required. They think your company will continue to do well if it keeps doing what it's doing.
  • No Results: They've tried to innovate, but they didn't see positive results. They don't think it's worth the time or money to try again.
  • No Walk: They say they want to innovate, and maybe they share big ideas, but they don't put those ideas into action.
  • No Time: Engulfed in the day-to-day demands, they say they don't have time to focus on the future.
  • No Money: They say the budget doesn't allow for the execution of new ideas.
  • No Responsibility: They believe innovation is the job of the Chief Innovation Officer, and that they have nothing to do with it.
  • No Clue: They only know how to do the job they're doing, and they don't believe they have the training or skill to innovate.

Upgrading Your Executives on Innovation

There are multiple steps you can take—and may need to take—to equip your executives with the skills and sense of urgency required to innovate.

Identify the Problem

If your leaders don't understand there's a problem with innovation, then you have a problem, indeed. Impress upon them that innovation is required and that your company is not where it needs to be if you want to thrive into the future. Your entire leadership team needs to be on board.

Know How They Learn

Everyone has a different learning style, and getting your team up to speed on innovation may require multiple approaches, so you can find something that works for everyone.

"What's In It For Me?"

No one is really loyal within an organization.... You have a great job, and you like what you're doing, but if you were offered a similar job, similar setting, but you get twice the salary or triple the salary, 99 percent of everyone would go for that better job.

When people start a career, they're focused on themselves and their achievements. Failing to recognize this puts you at risk of losing your top talent. Consider how innovation will serve each individual's skills and goals, and put them in roles that help them advance their career as you advance your company.

Connect Peers and Influence the Influencers

The person in the company's top position is not automatically a trusted advisor for your leadership team. The team may have more trust and respect for peers who are in the same situation they're in. Get to know the leaders among the leaders, and ensure they're on board with your plans for innovation. Connect them with their fellow co-workers, maybe even across companies or industries, so they can learn from each other, determine what works best, and get inspired to try it within their own organization.

Have Hard Conversations

You have to ask yourself: "Are you really the right person to lead the efforts here? If you are the right person, what makes you the right person and how do you stay sharp?" These questions may bring up answers that are hard to discuss with the leadership group.

Take the Lead and Take Action

Don't wait for someone else to spearhead innovation. Find the intersection of day-to-day activities, industry disruptions that require attention, and opportunities to shape the future.

Let's face it: we need to get (some of) our executives on board for innovation to be successful, whether we like it or not. With Stefan's suggestions, you can start with assessing where you, your executives and your organization are at this moment, and plan for step-by-step improvements. Do share anything (else) that works for you- we're all keen to learn how to crack the code!


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