Leading Innovation

By: Harvey Hook

“It’s always innovation that gets us out of the straight-line thinking, of what problems look like.”  -Bill Gates

It was the innovative technology of Henry Ford that launched the mass production facilities of Detroit, and placed America first in the auto industry.

It was the innovative strategy of Bill Gates that captured key technological advances of his day, that created life-changing software products which were quickly delivered to consumers.

It was the innovative culture of Chief Shoe Giver, Blake Mycoskie that connected products to a cause (Buy One – Give One) that launched the international success of TOMS shoes.

Whether it’s innovation of technology, strategy, or culture that led to the global success of the three leaders noted above; each also had the capacity to lead innovation, when it was often counter-intuitive to mainstream trends.  In addition, they did not simply create success for themselves and their companies; they have employed millions of people, and served billions of customers, which has in turn created new industries to support their products and services.

Their success has generated an increase in the quality of life for an untold number of millions, dare I say billions, of people around the world.  Their work has created a better world.  You could say, innovation is the gift that keeps on giving!

Here are three essential quality of innovative leaders

1. They create a collaborative culture.

Innovations arise from engagement and interactions with people with diverse expertise, experience, and points of view. Insight often plays a role, but most often they simply build on the collaborative work of others. Edison may get the credit for his inventions—it was his laboratory, of course—but each one typically arose from years of effort that included many others. Certainly, he contributed many ideas himself, but he was equally an inventor and a leader of invention.

The collaborative nature of innovation is what leads us to talk of individual ideas coming together to create collective innovation. No individual contribution will often suffice to create a final solution. But each contribution—through collaboration—plays its part in creating the genius of the next big success. In the right culture, with the right leadership, a group can amplify the diverse talents and ideas of its individual members.

2. They support innovative thinking.

Personalizing is one key to innovative thinking. The business world tends to undervalue individual experience. However, personalizing allows us to attain input from all of life’s experiences. It allows us to tap into our own broad scope of knowledge and experience. It draws on your interests, hobbies, or avocation and applies them to work. Consider how ideas, patterns, or strands of insight from the whole of your life might contribute to your work. The customer side of personalizing is the ability to understand your customer in a full and real way. Personalizing requires you to interact with customers in their environment. It pushes you to understand who they are and how they live. Deep customer knowledge leads to the new ideas, patterns, and insights that fuel innovation.

3. They encourage upward communication.

The best ideas can come from anywhere.  It is the open-door policy of leaders that allow the best ideas to surface, whether they come from executive leadership or front-line business associates.  The lead edge companies of our day are those who have a culture that invites ideas to bubble up from the first level of the organization.

In support of our belief in, innovative leadership, Relā will host the 2017 Leadership Forum: LEADING INNOVATION, May 24th at Lincoln Theatre.  Our event Chair is Brad Harmon, President & Publisher, Dispatch Media Group, with Mark Kvamme, Co-Founder, Drive Capital serving as Emcee.  To take a look at this year’s lineup of engaging and thought provoking speakers and register CLICK HERE.

Event Sponsors include:



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