Implementing innovation – a leadership challenge


Implementing innovation – a leadership challenge



Innovation is a hot leadership topic. It is now regularly on the boardroom agenda as executive teams and boards try to figure out an appropriate response to the emerging threats of market disruption and the rapid changes in customer behaviours and expectations. But it’s also proving to be a significant cause of frustration for many of the leaders we work with. This frustration is not isolated to a small group. In a recent McKinsey poll, 84% of global executives reported that innovation was extremely important to their growth strategies, but a staggering 94% were dissatisfied with their organisations’ innovation performance.

“Becoming more innovative” or implementing innovation, requires both building innovation capability within an organisation and transforming the culture, each of which are seriously chunky change initiatives that take time and leadership commitment – which is why many innovation programmes struggle to get traction.

Irrespective of any lofty strategic intent, our experience is that leaders will only commit and stick to the agreed change path if they’re seeing results that matter to them – as a former Australian Prime Minister once said “Bet on self interest – it’s always running.” There has to be alignment between where resources are being allocated to the innovation program and where innovation benefits are being derived. So often, we see organisations launching organisation-wide innovation initiatives with many of the up and coming stars seconded into the programme from across the organisation – after all who doesn’t want to get involved in doing the sexy new stuff!! But then the innovation focus is often targeted at very specific parts of the business creating disconnects between resource allocation and benefit realisation.

This may sound trivial but when senior leaders are being asked to commit some of their top performers to a big change initiative, they’ll only “carry” the programme for a while. It won’t be long before they’re questioning the whole strategy if they’re not seeing the benefits to the things that matter to them. It is vital that this is thought through properly when designing the approach to building innovation capability otherwise it is probably only a matter of time before the wheels start to fall off and self-interest rears its head at the leadership table.

As always, if you would like any help with building a robust innovation strategy whilst creating leadership alignment, feel free to contact me at – I’d love to hear from you!


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