“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs
Innovation is a popular topic. If I Google innovation I get somewhere north of 3 billion hits. I get links to webinars about innovation, I see articles about innovation, there are books written about innovation – it’s one of the primary topics of conversation in the world today.
So it would seem safe to assume that businesses and those who lead them are laser-focused on innovating, driving strategic innovation initiatives, being targeted and intentional about innovating in their organization and beyond. That would be a bad assumption. While most of the businesses we work with acknowledge that innovation is a big deal, most of them are doing next to nothing that is purposeful to address it.
Too many leaders are viewing innovation as something you do when an emergency demands it. Certainly necessity is the mother of invention, and in those situations innovation is happening. Unfortunately, that attitude creates reactive innovators. When something forces us to innovate, we do it, but not a moment sooner.
There are lots of problems with that approach, but one of the most crucial is that organizations have a tendency to innovate slowly, which means that if you wait until there’s an emergency to be innovative you’re going to have a hard time keeping up. That’s especially true given the pace of change today.
We need to be anticipatory innovators. We need to look out beyond the next 30 days and think about WHERE we might need to be in 5 years, and what kinds of changes will have to happen for us to get there. We need to be innovative leaders looking at what’s next. We can’t afford to be stuck on models from the past that are no longer relevant.
Are you driving innovation in your organization? Are you thinking out beyond the immediate fire that needs to be put out? Or do you have your head down in the weeds, stuck in the (relatively) unimportant minutiae of the day to day?
And remember, being an innovative leader doesn’t mean sitting at your desk trying to think creative thoughts. It means getting out there, asking questions, observing, etc. (this guy sums it up pretty well) and then taking all that insight you’ve gathered and taking the leap. Are you doing that?
Real leaders don’t shy away from the unknown. They don’t ignore reality because it’s challenging. They don’t pretend the question doesn’t exist just because they don’t know the answer. Real leaders get to work and start attacking the future. Be a real leader.