5 Keys to Inspiring & Empowering Innovators in 2016

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New Year! New Goals! Same Challenges!!??!

In a 2015 survey by BPI Network, top global executives reported the following obstacles holding back innovation in their organizations: Fear of failure: 42%. Politics and silos: 37%. Resistance to change: 31%. Lack of CEO/Board commitment: 25%. Lack of innovation leadership and empowerment: 24%. The list was dominated by people problems.

If you’re a leader with responsibility for driving innovation, here are 5 ideas to create change and deliver impact in 2016 and beyond.

  1. Innovation Leadership Leading for innovation requires creating a culture in which people can take risks, where collaboration is expected and rewarded. It requires not only a strategic vision but also emotional intelligence. What impact are You having on innovation in your organization? Your beliefs, attitudes, fears, and strengths all show up in your actions, interactions, relationships, and decision-making. The first element of EQ in Daniel Goleman’s model is self-awareness. How is your innate tolerance for risk and uncertainty impacting your style, your language, your expectations of others? Are you setting up your people and teams for success? Are you clearing roadblocks and obstacles…or unknowingly creating them?
  2. Purpose and Meaning People are longing to make a difference and the opportunity to do that through their work is what is driving innovation across the globe. Not all businesses have a clear and compelling purpose beyond profits, but you can help your innovation teams focus on how their projects are serving others and how their personal contribution makes a difference on the team. Facilitate their discovery of meaning, make it personal, to truly inspire and engage them. Check out Deloitte’s research on the impact of creating a Culture of Purpose.
  3. Process and Outcomes Clarify the vision, engage people in creating the plan, and ensure they understand what is needed and expected at each stage of the innovation process. Clear process flow and decision-making criteria allow for greater self-management and accountability by the teams for their actions and results.
  4. Innovator Strengths Beyond functional expertise, every person has innate instincts that drive how he or she takes action in the creative problem solving process. Empowering innovators with insights into their own strengths and an appreciation for the differing strengths of their teammates leads to greater productivity and better results.
  5. Stakeholder Engagement Explicitly consider the needs of everyone that might be impacted by the innovation initiative and creatively engage them, actively seeking their input at key points in the innovation process. Who matters? Why do they care? How does what you do impact them? What are you solving for them? Does Customer Service have insights into your customers’ problems and needs that you can address if you involve them early? Think how much more supportive they’ll be when you roll out your product or service innovation if you’ve engaged them in creating the solution.

What are you doing differently in 2016 to inspire and empower your innovators?

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