Build an Innovation Culture – With the Right Leaders

Like making sure you have the right soil for the plants in your garden, an innovation culture needs a strong leader to make it grow.

But building a culture of innovation is not easy. Any change initiative is challenging building a culture of innovation is one in which many organizations fail. At the center of it all is the leader.

We have spoken before about supportive leadership when running a successful innovation program. But when you are building an innovation culture, the leader is like Atlas who holds up the world – essential. Exceptional leaders are masters of building culture.

Having the Right Mentality

For a leader to change the way an organization approaches innovation, they must have the right mentality. Traditional leader involves selling a future state of the company to their employees, but that approach does not work when you are trying to create a culture of innovation. Instead of pitching a vision for the future, leaders that inspire change must ask “How can I create an environment for innovation to occur.” These leaders must be able to tap into the collective wisdom of every employee in the organization and be able to generate new growth from these slivers of wisdom.

Setting the Rules of Engagement

Leaders that drive change can inspire a willingness to innovate within the community by building the right rules of engagement. We share here and here about the relationship between engagement and innovation. Setting the rules of engagement ensures that everyone agrees on the purpose of innovation, while at the same time, keeping everyone focused on activities that foster innovation.

In a mismanaged community, the pursuit of innovation can actually create more silos and conflict. The rules of engagement help to relieve those tensions and allow employees to trust each other while empowering them to think with data and the bigger picture in mind.

Building Innovation Capacity

A leader who wants to build an innovation culture needs to be able to help employees build their innovation capacity. One of the most challenging aspects of building an innovation culture is how to change the mentality of employees so that they are constantly looking out for ways to improve the organization or building innovation capacity. Leaders must be able to give employees the freedom they need to explore and pursue their ideas while helping them identify key areas for improvement.

What are your thoughts on qualities a leader should have to build a culture of innovation?

image credit: Dell Inc.
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