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How to develop a strategic innovation vision for your organization

Business Design & Innovation

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What are the trends emerging today that will shape your industry tomorrow? How can you develop a creative outlook on these trends and become a winner with unexpected growth in a mature market? Professor Gerard J. Puccio, lecturer in our Master Class Creativity & Innovation Leadership, helps you develop a strategic innovation vision for your organization.

Gerard J. Puccio holds a Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Manchester, England. He is Department Chair and Professor at the International Center for Studies in Creativity, Buffalo State. His forthcoming book, due out in Spring of 2017, is titled Organizational Creativity and Innovation: A Personal Journey for Innovators and Entrepreneurs.

 

Why should companies and leaders invest in innovation?

Innovation has never been more important. Why? Change is happening at an ever-faster pace. Because we live in an innovation economy, the kinds of skills necessary for professional success have changed. Organizations that do not innovate will quickly become extinct in the 21st century. Organizations do not change on their own. It is the people in these organizations that drive change and growth, and it is up to leaders to set the pace, to facilitate creative thinking.

Evolution depends on two things, the generation of novelty and the selection and retention of the best ideas. Biological species do this naturally. Organizations do not, they need help. It is up to leaders to facilitate the generation of novelty, i.e., new ideas for better business practices, solutions to problems, products, and services. Without this, just as with biological species, those organizations who don't evolve will die.

 

Do you notice big differences in leadership approaches around the world?

There are subtle differences that I have observed. Perhaps the most profound difference that I have seen relative to Europeans in general, and to Belgians specifically, is the tolerance for risk taking. I have been surprised several times when I have lead a training program in creative leadership with European managers to find that risk-taking does not come up as a desirable quality. In North America especially, this is always viewed as a positive quality, that to be innovative or to drive creativity in organizations, one must be willing to take risks to encourage others to take risks.

There are numerous other differences around the world, how the Asians show deference to authority, how Mexicans (and some South American countries) are very familial in how they interact with others, but I’ll stop there.

 

Can you give some examples of how leaders can be creative?

  • Vision setting: Identifying positive new directions for their organizations and guiding their organizations successfully along a path to achieve these futures. To inspire, to challenge, to support employees to adapt to change and to seek out change. People naturally are uncomfortable with change, it is crucial that leaders help their direct reports to be comfortable with change and to be willing to go in new directions.
  • Openness to ideas: A characteristic of the modern-day business environment is complexity. Leaders cannot solve all the problems on their own, they need assistance. Leaders must be open to, and seek out, ideas of others to resolve complex situations. Furthermore, in a world that is changing rapidly organizations need to be idea rich. Many ideas need to be entertained to be able to change quickly, to solve problems and to see new opportunities. In short, leaders must see themselves as facilitators of thinking.
  • Create a climate for creative thinking: More than any other organizational characteristic, it is leadership that has the biggest impact on shaping the work environment. The research shows that leaders have minimal direct impact on innovation output in their organizations. More importantly, the research shows that what leaders can impact is the work environment and the degree to which it is safe to pursue new thoughts and ideas. To experiment. To take risks in trying something new. And when leaders create this kind of environment, then innovation occurs. Like a farmer does not directly make his crops grow by screaming at them, but by making sure that the soil is nutrient rich and watered, so does a leader not directly impact innovation by telling employees to be innovative, rather the leader must be sure that the work environment nurtures creative thinking.

 

How can you get your colleagues and employees to grow with you?

The most important thing that a leader can do is to ‘model the way.’ You need to behave in a way that shows others how to behave and to work. To adopt the qualities and characteristics that you wish to see others adopt. Far too often leaders say they want innovation and creativity, but their behaviors are in direct opposition to creativity and innovation. People see through this and therefore lose trust. To build trust, a leaders behaviors must match their words.

Interested in creating a culture of creativity driving innovation in your organization? 

Discover our Master Class Business Design Thinking!