Innovation vs. Parenthood. Episode #1 – Is anyone in charge?


Innovation vs. Parenthood. Episode #1 – Is anyone in charge?





Hi, I’m Astrid. I’m an organisational psychologist. I specialise in innovation, and I’m a new parent. Now, these things might seem unrelated, but as you’ll see in this series, I assure you they’re not.

When my son started crawling, I kept losing him. Not for hours of course, but there would be those horrible moments where I’d turn around for a second and he’d be gone. It confused me a lot. My daughter was very different. I could put her down anywhere, and she’d happily explore her immediate environment without losing sight of me.

I remember talking with friends about this, and they were quick to point to the difference in gender as the driving force behind that difference in behaviour. And there might well be something in that (although I’d argue a lot less than people seem to think, but that’s a conversation for a different day), but that’s certainly not all there is to the story. A huge part of the difference in their behaviour, was the difference in my behaviour. With the first, I was on constant high alert. Did she put something in her mouth? Was she hungry? Thirsty? Tired? How was her nappy? Was the dummy appropriately sanitised? By the time bub no 2 came around, that all went out the window. Let’s just say there was a lot more scope for him to explore independently. And so he did.

It reminded me of something similar I see play out in organisations all the time. How leaders behave has a direct impact on the behaviour of the people in the organisation. And in the context of innovation, even with great intention to drive innovation, leaders often end up blocking it instead.

Are you a leader, and keen not to fall in this trap? Here are a few tips to start changing your behaviour to let innovation thrive:

  1. Change your mind. And do this in front of everyone. Successful innovative organisations are those that learn faster than anyone else. And this starts with leaders. If you can as a leader, hold an opinion, get challenged, listen, learn and do a 180 in an open forum, you’re helping to drive an innovation culture.
  2. Don’t just invest in the innovation capability of your staff, invest in your own innovation leadership capability too. Funding innovation, and driving the right behaviours with that funding is about rethinking your innovation governance structure and stopping to overinvest in what youthink is a good idea. Build some capability in learning how to invest little bits of funding in robust experimentation instead, and let customer behaviour do the talking.
  3. Reconsider your role. Once you have reached alignment with other leaders around where you want to focus innovation effort (in the context of your strategy), consider yourself a supporter of the process and the remover of (inevitable) organisational blockers. Trusting your people is key. That’s why you’ve hired them.

If you are looking for ways to drive the right behaviours in your organisation, shoot me a message on I’m always up for a chat. Changing leadership behaviour, to drive the right behaviours in the organisation is so critical.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to duck out to find my son. I’m pretty sure he’s around here somewhere.

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