The innovation leadership challenge

By Lisa Butland

We all know introducing innovation isn't easy and that's why it takes so long! Time we simply don't have if we are to meet the current challenges of growing demand, growing expectations, a plethora of new technologies and financial constraints.

The one major asset we do have is our staff and I urge you to seek out your innovation champions. They may not be the obvious suspects so look out for those who are inspirational to their peers, are willing to put themselves behind an idea that may not work, are charismatic and a resource finder. Research shows that they represent an average of five per cent of your workforce, they are gold dust so do find and nurture them!

Once you have the champions, here are the three organisational ingredients necessary for their success:

  1. Leadership - a great leader of innovation will create an organisation with the appropriate structures and processes to allow operations to be delivered to the highest quality and at the greatest efficiency, as well as creating a culture of innovation.
  2. Operations – the performance of activities on a routine basis, which are risk adverse to avoid unnecessary error or harm.
  3. Innovation - this is in addition to being risk adverse in structures and processes; conversely, it involves providing the freedom to try out new things and take risks, and embracing failure as part of the learning cycle.

Separating innovation from operations creates an environment to allow innovations to flourish, the greater the separation the more transformational the change - however the more difficult it can be to embed it back into routine operations. Here, the role of the innovation champion becomes important to engage and pull the various functions together to jointly own the innovation, and share successes.

The innovation leadership challenge is to manage the organisation so the two functions can co-exist, allowing innovations to emerge and become accepted in the daily operations.

The Innovation Agency provides help to create a culture in which innovation can thrive, through our Putting Innovation into Practice programme.

Also, we are embarking on a unique collaboration with the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Hacking Medicine initiative which will provide opportunities for our partners to benefit from world leading design thinking, to support innovation leadership.

Finally, we organise a network of Innovation Scouts across the North West Coast; if you would like to nominate yourself or a colleague to become a Scout, please contact me.


Posted by: By Lisa Butland, on: 13 April 2017