The leader’s innovation challenge is how to make major changes produce pragmatic results. So much is written about "innovation" that I think misses the mark on actually innovating. There are way more “great ideas” than can be done, but not enough leaders capable or willing enough to do them.
Leaders and their organizations are used to being and doing things as they are today. This (what I call) status quo fetishism is so powerful that great companies of the past have shown a disinclination to accept what’s plain as the nose on their face and undergo transformative change, adopting new approaches, products or services.
If you accept my assertion about the distinction between innovation and innovating, then it’s important to know in what ways are you a change-maker or change-breaker. This self-test might help:
1. On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is skeptical and 10 is open-minded enough to try something different and see where it leads, rank how you tend to respond to ideas / suggestions from credible people for significant change in your organization?
2. On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is completely satisfied, and 10 is completely dissatisfied, rate your attitude toward the current products, services, people, and organization you lead?
3. On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is "very unwilling to allow for a potential failure" and a 10 is “could weather a potential failure well,” rate your proclivity to deal with a potential failure from implementing change.
4. On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is less than once a month and 10 is frequently each week, how often do the meetings you conduct focus on pragmatic steps to implement options for significantly different approaches to people, process, technology, or all of the above?
5. On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is risk-focused and 10 is reward-focused, how does risk management versus the potential for rewards tend to influence your decision-making?
6. On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is completely passive (interested but not doing anything about it), and 10 is completely active (experimenting, piloting new approaches, people, products or services on an ongoing basis) how would you assess your own engagement in what and how things could be different in your organization?
Now do the math: add up your six ratings, multiply by 1.66, and this will give you a percentage of 100.
If you scored below 70, take a fresh look at those questions you scored lower, and ask yourself what might need to change in how you think about / execute innovation.
If you scored between 70 and 90, bravo, you are more of a change maker than a change breaker. What can you do to shore up the lower scores?
If you score above 90, the question is if you might want to look a tad more carefully before you leap? Just a concern for you to keep in mind.
Consider the factors I’ve queried, above: open-minded, dissatisfied with the status quo, failure-tolerant, attentive to new ideas, reward-focused, experimentation-inclined. Many leaders have rejected tremendous opportunities because they lacked (or shied away from) one or more of these six factors. Such resistance is understandable—after all, transformative change upsets our sense of normalcy. Yet this need not be you. How open are you to these key ingredients in your world? Make any necessary changes to get yourself and / or your team in shape for innovation.