Image of a manager leading an innovation meeting.

Business Innovation through Leadership

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

Innovation and business leadership in today’s market mean essentially the same thing, according to Michael J. Gelb, founder of High Performance Learning. Take a look at his groundbreaking ideas that will help you to get out the most your workforce — by giving them room to help lead the charge.

A creative leading-edge workforce starts at the top.

Gone are the days where workers — including you — did just one thing. Now, everyone is speeding down the innovation highway to leap over competition, add value to customers’ lives and fuel employees to design the next big thing. If the rapid pace of change is your kryptonite, suit up to find out what makes an innovative leader tick.

“Leader and innovative are synonymous,” says Michael J. Gelb, founder of High Performance Learning. “You can’t be a leader without being an innovator, so if you’re a real leader today you’re also an innovator. You have to be coming up with new solutions, new ideas and be able to facilitate the process of innovation in other people.”

Innovative Traits to Cultivate

The core of every successful business is based in hiring quality employees. As a leader you need to encourage your staff to constantly challenge the norm. Here are five ways to get the process started.

Create a growth mindset. Everybody’s had a know-it-all manager who doesn’t want feedback and isn’t interested in learning,” says Gelb. These folks drain talent and never help your organization compete globally. Instead, adopt a growth mindset by observing your internal dialogue (i.e., critical vs. curious), remaining committed to change and focus on giving and receiving constructive feedback.

Focus on agility. Innovators are fast, responsive, present and in tune with people and technology,” says Cheryl Cran, a change leadership and future of work expert. “This allows them to be solution-focused.” In a tech firm for example, a leader may have technical/analytical agility, but lack people skills. Because agility is about integrating multiple skills, hire an executive coach to develop all of your skill sets. Pair this approach with insights from One of America’s Top Businesswomen, and you’re off to a great start.

Have a penchant for teaching. Leaders who say, “My team needs to be more innovative,’ should first ask themselves: “What have I done to facilitate this?” says Cran. Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, performed what’s called ‘knowledge transfer,’ showing his teams what innovation looked like from his point of view. For your staff’s benefit, begin by outlining your definition of innovation, how success will be measured and the rewards for reaching goals. Be sure to coach all employees to be innovative, otherwise, they’re driving blind.

Respect the innovative process. While thinking like an innovator may be commonplace in a tech startup, it is an art. “You need to know how to generate ideas, how to make connections between ideas and how to get people from different backgrounds to share their ideas in the most constructive and positive way,” says Gelb. Be sure that people’s ideas are heard, implemented and rewarded when warranted. Otherwise, you risk employees thinking, “Why should I even bother?”

Work with a high degree of creative energy. To get something done requires a tremendous amount of energy. It’s what Brian Tracy, author of “Time Management,” refers to as the four Ds of effectiveness: Desire, Decisiveness, Determination and Discipline. Part of an innovative leader’s effectiveness is the ability to remain optimistic about the big picture while remaining critical and disciplined about the day-to-day information.

Innovative Questions

With this in mind, think about your next project. Gelb suggests asking your team members these five questions:

  • What are your ideas?
  • What’s the real problem?
  • Do we have all the data?
  • Is there another way to think about this?
  • Is there anyone we haven’t talked to who has insight on this?

As a leader in today’s complex global environment, developing a strategic vision and process that allows risk-taking and encourages your team to unleash creativity is now a requisite for growth and success. “The most creative, innovative people are insatiably curious,” says Cran. “They never assume they know it all or that the product or service is the be-all and end-all.” As you build a more innovative and entrepreneurial direction for your business, now is the perfect time to fine-tune your business policy (Opens in a new tab) by contacting an American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab). You’ll find the peace of mind that comes with knowing your investments are well protected.

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