What does it take to be an innovation leader?

Evette Cordy

As an innovation expert, registered psychologist and the chief investigator and co-founder at Agents of Spring, Evette uses curiosity and creativity to helps organisations to create human-centred products and services and facilitates new ways of thinking in organisations. She is the author of Cultivating Curiosity: How to unearth your most valuable problem to inspire growth.

To thrive in an increasingly complex and unpredictable new world, organisations will need to innovate, and leaders will require the necessary skills to do so. Here,  

Here are four skills that will turbo-charge your innovation efforts.  

Handling ambiguity

Imagine you are in a senior leadership meeting and someone asks how the latest innovation project is going. All heads turn to you, waiting for your response. You don't know yet – it is too early, your team hasn't even defined the right problem to solve – yet you feel compelled to respond. Are you comfortable to say: “I don’t know yet, but we are learning a lot”?  

Ambiguity is all around us. We don't know what we don’t know. Yet we like to know, because it helps us to feel more comfortable and in control.  In psychology, this is referred to as our need for closure. When our need for closure is high, we tend to revert to stereotypes, jump to conclusions and deny contradictions.  

Leaders’ need for certainty can kill innovation. It reduces a leader’s ability to let go of the known and make space for new, unknown insights and ideas. In your next innovation project sit with ambiguity and plan to ‘not know’ for a bit longer.  

A curious mindset

Leaders that curiously observe what customers say and do, to understand what deeply matters to them, will find the most valuable problems to solve. This helps them to create more meaningful solutions for customers.  

Leaders should spend less time in the office and more time walking in their customers’ shoes. Spend time discovering customers’ hopes, fears and values. Notice what delights them, and also observe their pain points. The more open leaders are to discover new insights, the richer the platform for problem finding, and ultimately innovation, will be.  

Creatively fit

Creativity is the most in-demand soft skill according to LinkedIn behavioural data. It is critical for breakthrough thinking and innovation, and scientific research has shown that anyone can cultivate it. The more often you can approach challenges flexibly and imaginatively, the easier it will become to generate original ideas.  

Research has suggested that more creative thinkers are also accomplished at seeing connections between things they already know and connecting the dots to generate more original ideas. By training your ability to see connections, you can boost your ability to think creatively.  

Being brave

Imagine you are in another leadership meeting and presenting the customer-led ideas that have been prioritised. Several in the room challenge these ideas: “We’ve tried that before, and it didn’t work”, completely disagreeing with what has been decided. Do you sit there and nod your head in agreement, or do you speak up and explain how these ideas are different and what you learnt from failing last time?  

Many of us play it safe. We agree with others because we do not want to stand out or we fear failure, and this is costly to innovation efforts. Leaders need to embrace risk-taking, challenge the status quo, and bravely speak up and dissent.  

These four leadership skills should be practiced and mastered alongside a robust innovation process to enhance your innovation efforts. Keep in mind; these are not one-off activities – to get skilled they require repeated effort and discipline.

Tags: innovation, Leadership strategies

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

State of the CMO 2018

CMO's State of the CMO is an annual research initiative aimed at understanding how Australian ...

More whitepapers

Blog Posts

The purpose of purpose

Everyone knows the 4 P’s of marketing: Price, product, promotion and place. There is now a fifth ‘P’ in the marketing mix.

What does it take to be an innovation leader?

To thrive in an increasingly complex and unpredictable new world, organisations will need to innovate, and leaders will require the necessary skills to do so. Here,

Evette Cordy

Co-founder, Agents of Spring

3 marketing mistakes to overcome when courting prospective customers

Marketing that urges respondents to ‘buy now’ is a little like asking someone to marry you on your first date. At any time, only 3 per cent of the market is looking for what you’re selling, so the chances of your date randomly being ‘The One’ is pretty slim.

Sabri Suby

Founder, King Kong

An article largely re-purposed from things other people have said 5+ years ago – what's more, they said it better.

hogwash

The purpose of purpose - Brand science - CMO Australia

Read more

talking about the 4 p's:https://www.tripleclicks.co...

kigoma divin

The purpose of purpose - Brand science - CMO Australia

Read more

Interesting blog, good information is provided regarding Design Thinking For Business Strategy. Was very useful, thanks for sharing the b...

Tanya Sharma

Is design thinking the answer for the next generation of marketing?

Read more

Hi all,Good Post! Thank you so much for sharing this pretty post, it was so good to read and useful to improve my knowledge as updated on...

Jules john

To DMP or not to DMP? - Marketing automation - CMO Australia

Read more

Red Agency YouGov Galaxy Report, February 2019 Predictors Study. https://redagency.com.au/re...

Vanessa Skye Mitchell

DNA-based marketing: The next big thing?

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in