Classic Insight Article

In most organizations growth through innovation is a top priority.  So is talent. Yet, few organizations adequately look at the link between growth and talent.  Even when research has shown that there is a strong correlation between entrepreneurial leadership and higher levels of innovation and growth.

Future leaders are often molded in the image of the existing leaders who run the core business.  That’s a mistake.

The skills and capabilities that propelled most executives to the top of organizations in the past are not the ones required to build new growth businesses. These executives are often blinded by their own experience.  They rely on proven approaches that worked well in the core business but may not in a new business. They make decisions based on reason and argument not creative thought. They trust data more than intuition.  They prefer risk avoidance to taking risks.

Perhaps this is part of the reason that revenue growth and innovation growth in organizations has slowed. Organizations marginalize their innovation efforts by playing it safe with individuals who represent the past, not the future.

In the article, How to Innovate When You’re Not the Big Boss, John Beeson said “Given the unrelenting pace of change surrounding organizations in virtually every industry, companies are looking for executives who know how to innovate and introduce change, not simply caretakers who can manage the status quo.”

Often the types of individuals needed to lead innovation projects are not even considered for the position. These individuals represent a small minority of independent thinkers who don’t fit the corporate mold.  They see the world differently and they think and act differently.  They don’t let existing systems and processes get in their way.  They find new and creative ways to get things done. They leverage whatever resources they have available to them.

There are no roadmaps or guidebooks for entrepreneurial leaders to follow. They must create a new path, new processes and new ways of working.  They will encounter obstacles that the organization has not encountered before. They will have to make decisions without sufficient data. They will face seemingly impossible hurdles to move forward.  They will have to deal with resistance to change.

Innovation has become a critical imperative for many organizations and a survival strategy for others.  The difference between success and failure may rest with the leaders you choose to lead these efforts.

Entrepreneurial leaders give your organization an innovation edge.

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Classic Insights – This article Innovation Edge was originally published March 2013
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