Less old guard. More new ground.

Any leader with an ear to the ground hears the call for innovation. Most organizations are increasing funding for it, many CEOs cite it as one of their top five priorities, and numerous executives feel that their long-term success depends on it.

Often what’s overlooked however is the 30 years of research suggesting organizations hoping to shape a culture of innovation will get the biggest returns from focusing on leader behaviors that create the right team characteristics to support it. The key to innovation is not about analyzing individual characteristics but rather understanding what leaders can do to drive innovation in their teams and organization.   

Then the solution is simple, right?  Just identify the behaviors, implement, and voila – You have shaped a highly innovative organization! Unfortunately, most organizations struggle and here’s why:

Innovation can’t happen if everything remains the same.

Innovation involves doing things better, faster, and more efficiently. It involves doing things differently. Many organizations talk about innovation but it gets reduced to broad ideas and slogans and fail to make any real change to the way things are done. Meanwhile, successful organizations help leaders align behaviors at all levels to ensure that people understand the role that innovation plays in their team and the organization’s success and most importantly, that they know what they need to do to help drive it.

Few use the science of behavior to innovate

A common misconception is that innovation originates with one person having a great idea. Unlocking innovation does not require some magic ingredient. It is a science – a very human science.

CLG recognizes that innovation looks different from one company to another, depending on the type of challenge at hand. This is why we leverage Applied Behavioral Science to understand the key drivers of innovation in organizations, as well as the barriers that are holding them back. We help clients focus on the few leadership behaviors that we have identified as driving innovation and reinforce them by asking:

  • Do people understand the direction and need for innovation?
  • Do people feel they have the right competencies to perform?
  • Are people given the opportunity to perform? Are there process or structure barriers?
  • Are they motivated and rewarded for innovation… do people perform because they have to or because they want to?

Most organizations fail at cracking the generational code

 Leaders who truly foster innovation understand that every generation contributes to innovation, although how this is done may be different. In order to leverage a multigenerational workforce, it is essential to understand generational differences and approaches to innovation. When leaders fail to adapt their approaches to engage employees across all generations in helping to drive innovation, they underutilize some of their best resources.

From the technological expertise and questioning attitude of Millennials to Gen X’s focused problem-solving approaches and the Boomers’ work experience and dedication to driving organizational performance, each generation brings potential to the table. Leaders who effectively manage and engage multi-generational teams are able to draw on each generation’s strengths to create a cohesive effort to support innovation. Achieving this balance is not easy, and it does not happen by itself.

It all starts with what leaders are doing everyday to get the most out of their people. CLG works with leaders to help them understand not just what they need to do to drive innovation, but how they need to do it to fully engage their teams in the innovative process.

For more on the topic of innovation, view  Kicking Your Culture of Innovation into High Gear: A Generational Approach