Innovation Article in Leadership Excellence

If you subscribe to Leadership Excellence magazine, please look for Kim Barnes’ and Nelson Soken’s article, “Innovation Journey: How can you lead and manage it?” in the September issue. Kim Barnes is, of course, Barnes & Conti’s president and CEO. Nelson Soken, Ph.D., is a senior manager at Medtronic; he also facilitates our Managing Innovation program.

If you don’t subscribe to Leadership Excellence, the article is, unfortunately, not available online. I’ll do my best to summarize the article below.

Kim and Nelson begin by explaining the difference between innovating, and leading innovation:

…Innovation requires tapping people’s creativity and imagination and cultivating a culture that stimulates and supports innovation. Innovation is not the result of imposing specific processes and disciplines, but is an inherently human activity that requires a broad understanding of how people think and behave…

Innovation leaders, according to Kim and Nelson, “ask people to look at problems from different perspectives, take unfamiliar positions, identify and test their assumptions and take risks. Such leaders make room for experimentation, mistakes, and failures while requiring focus and discipline.”

Nelson and Kim then introduce the innovation journey:

We describe innovation as a journey—adventure travel with twists and turns, dead-ends, retracing of steps, accidents, surprises, dangers, and possible failures… Effective innovation leaders and managers use a consistent pattern, moving through five phases. In the program, Managing Innovation, we use the concept of avatars to describe personae that represent the mindsets and skill sets that support each phase….

The article ends with a discussion of the leader’s role in innovation:

Leaders play a critical role in guiding innovation… Strong leaders help provision people for their journey. They communicate the vision of a strategic destination while at the same time leaving room for passion, excitement, spontaneity, and responsiveness to circumstances and opportunity…

…Ultimately, innovation is about people… not just good intentions and well-defined processes. Innovation leadership and management give you a competitive advantage.

In brief, innovation leaders tap the imagination and creativity, and nurture the best along by means of an innovation journey until the best ideas becomes reality. And your organization just might become more profitable because of it.

As I said in a previous post, innovation is a favorite topic of mine. I’ll be blogging about the journey and it’s five phases in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned for more on innovation…

For more information on Managing Innovation, visit our website.

—Joel Kleinbaum

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