How to Become an Innovative Leader
Innovation is the one thing that separates leaders from followers and entrepreneurs from mere managers. It is that simple ingredient that sets a school, hospital, nation or organization apart from all the others. The most interesting part is that the innovative spirit can be developed by anyone by following the 3 action steps listed below!
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First, before we look at three (3) principles of innovation, I will like us to define innovation properly. This is because many abstract definitions around put a mystical and unattainable view on innovation. Making it seem like something only a few are gifted with, and that is completely wrong. Anyone can innovate anything!
What is Innovation?
Innovation is really not the creation of new things but rather “Innovation is the combination of old things in new ways”. This is important because like a wise man said nothing is new under sun. So no need pressurizing yourself try to look for something new. Interestingly I will like to point out that Isaac Newton could have flown an aircraft because all the material from creation existing today also existed then. But the reason he didn’t fly an aircraft was simply because the right combinations of those materials was not until the 20th century with the Wright brothers. Therefore all you need to bring about innovative change in your office, school and organization already exist around you.
3 Principles of Innovation
1) Innovation is a Function of Vision
Meanwhile sight is a function of the eyes, vision is a function of the heart. All followers see is the facts about the present condition of things – what is. But vision sees what could be, what possibilities exist and how change could come about. This is the essence of innovation – change. You must develop your capacity to look beyond the present situation so you can see the opportunities that lie in the horizons. Your capacity to see then is just a function of your capacity to think. Innovators are Big Thinkers. As always, the opportunities and solutions to bring about innovation lie right in front of us but we must see them.
For example: Many look at a cow but someone sees a pair of shoe; many look at a sheep but someone sees a suit; many look at clay but someone sees a pot. So all you will ever need is right before you but you have to see it. Stop just looking, start thinking on what you’re looking at, so you can see!
2) Innovators Learn from, but Never Live in their Experiences
Experience most at times suffocates the innovative spirit within us. Just because something didn’t work last year doesn’t mean it won’t work this year. You must learn from your experience by grabbing all the lessons you can get from it. But making it a reference for your decisions is dangerous. Innovation is birth out of several trials and failures. So learn from the past but don’t live in it. Keep trying till you find a new way.
3) Innovation Requires Outsight
Every innovator develops their ability to look outside of themselves and their environment to collect new ideas and ways of seeing things. You want to perceive your task from as many as possible angles and viewpoints. Like Kouzes & Posner put it their book ‘Leadership Challenge’:
“Successful innovations don’t spring from the fifty-second floor of the headquarters building or the back offices of City Hall. It’s only by staying in touch with the world around them that leaders can ever expect to change the business-as-usual environment”
Sometimes innovative ideas will come from places completely unrelated to your task. For example: A wonder of engineering, the world largest passenger airline Airbus A380 owes its success to several innovations from places completely unrelated to aviation – its landing gear hydraulics supporting close to a million pounds on touch down from the bicycle pump idea; Its very strong, flexible, resistant and light covering from ancient weapons of war like the _Asian__ bow and arrow.
Innovators are simply those who:
“Challenge the tide of convention, stretch the boundaries of tradition, and violate the expectations of the norm” – Dr. Myles Munroe.
Three (3) Action Steps to Innovation
1) Always Start With the End in Mind
An easy way to practice or exercise your innovative spirit is start with the end or objective in mind. What is our purpose for doing what we are doing? Once you have a clear picture of your destination, not only do you know which routes could take you there, but also you automatically know what routes won’t take you there. This is important for eliminating unnecessary steps in the process and avoiding the redundancy loop.
2) Treat Every Job as an Adventure
No matter how long you have been on executing a certain task, if you must get innovative, you have treat it as a completely new adventure. Ask yourself how you will approach the task if seeing it for the very first time. Routine always creates complacency, which is bad for excellence and innovation. Think of yourself as an adventurer. Which methods of solving this problem exist that you haven’t tried yet and why? What approach have you never attempted – just make it fun and exciting and ideas will flow.
3) Challenge the Status Quo
Tradition is the greatest limiter to progress. Because something worked once, we become lazy about trying other possibilities. I couldn’t put this anyway better than Kouzes & Posner as in their book Leadership Challenge:
“Some standard practices, policies, and procedures are critical to productivity and quality assurance. However, many are simply matters of tradition. To divide them out, make a list of all the practices in your organization that are “the way we’ve always done it around here.” For each one, ask yourself, “How useful is this in helping us become the best we can be? How useful is this for stimulating creativity and innovation?” If your answer is “absolutely essential,” then keep it. If not, find a way to change it.”
There is more to you, your organization, business or enterprise than meets the eye. Stop just looking, think again and start seeing!
Those were some recommended principles and steps to develop your personal innovative spirit and become the next great inventor. For more insight, I will recommend the book
So that was how to become an innovative leader. Please leave all your questions and comments below, I’ll be happy to help as much as I can. I, and your fellow readers are curious to learn from your personal innovation stories if any. Ranging from turning your ruler into a spoon in class, to transforming your organization, please share them down below. If you loved this post, please share it with two (2) of your friends. Thanks for reading!
Wisdom for Dominion.