Great Leaders Embrace Innovation, and Innovation Demands Risks

Guest post by Randal Moss:

Great leaders consistently talk about the need
for their organization to ‘be innovative’ in their thinking. They recognize
that innovation is a strategy for growth and that being able to harness that
power will drive their organization’s success and their own as well. Often
overlooked by great leaders is that very successful organizational level
innovation requires a willingness to take risks, cultural openness to external ideas,
and a structure to protect non-traditional ideas as they develop and prove
value through proofs of concept testing.
No Guts, No Growth, No Glory

Taking risks is an inextricable part of being
innovative. Bets made on well researched unknowns led to the most cutting edge
products in history. The hubris to use new materials in creative and non-traditional
ways led to Teflon, Kevlar, and Viagra. Great leaders develop an appetite for
risk and a willingness to support the development of nontraditional idea when
they see the potential for gains. Great leaders know the difference between
incremental and exponential growth, and which kind delivers glory.

Culturally Open To Greatness

Great leaders also know that they have to create
a culture that supports innovation, and therefore a culture that embraces and
celebrates risk. In some industries that is daunting. In companies who are
market leaders because ‘they have always done things that way’ innovation can
face an uphill battle to drive change. Great leaders challenge their
organizations to go beyond the day to day and seek out their full potential.
Securing executive support for, and then creating, a formalized innovation
program is a critical first step. Executive support sends the message that
innovation is a priority. Celebrating innovations publicly is another important
activity. Whether new products are commercial blockbusters or break even lines
of business, publicly celebrating new ventures reinforces the idea that the
company is not satisfied with stagnation and appreciates growth. This is even
more critical for new lines of business that came from an employee suggestion
or innovation submission.

When organizations continue to promote and call
positive attention to internally developed new ideas, and encourage their
employees to participate in innovation, they become more open to change and the
leads to the genuine consideration of external input. Whether this comes in the
form of consumer feedback, or partner input in industrial enterprises. Truly innovative
companies are not so conceited that they think only the best ideas come from
them. They seek out inspiration externally, and are positioned to create
partnerships and joint ventures that drive exponential value. Most importantly
great leaders measure and demand innovative thinking and effort from their
employees. New products and services do not spontaneously appear – they
germinate from a seed idea and are intentionally nurtured into self-sustaining
lines of business.
Structure For Success

To drive growth and cultural change you have to
make a concerted and intentional effort at innovation. Many of the companies we
think as ‘innovative’ actually have innovation labs dedicated to creating new
opportunities. Dell, Starbucks, Shell Oil, Amazon, BMW, General Electric
Consumer Appliances, Under Armor, Google all have dedicated internal innovation
initiatives. These initiatives have a number of similar characteristics;
independence, executive support, corporate visibility, and a defined structure
and path for attracting ideas and developing them into profitable innovations.

To extract the most value from an external
facing organization that values new ideas and wants to monetize them you have
to have a process for attracting, evaluating, and prototyping ideas. Great
leaders are able to energize people and solicit ideas from every corner of the
organization. They can lead a diverse team in setting the business requirements
for funding new ideas. They have the wherewithal to know that you get what you
measure, they craft a review rubric to ensure smart investments, and shepherd
proof-of-concept prototypes through the corporate bureaucracy all the way lines
of business.
Great Leaders Embrace Innovation, and Innovation
Demands Risks

All of this work demands leaders to take on a
certain level of risk. There are no guarantees innovation will deliver a
specific ROI. Looking at a wide variety of business across a number of
industries there are some facts that cannot be ignored; every industry will be
disrupted at some point, business evolution is a prerequisite for longevity,
the only change is constant.

To grow you must be innovative.
To be innovative you must take risks.
Taking risks is the mark of a great leader.
Randal C. Moss is an award winning marketer who focuses on
engaging organizations and applying technology to drive growth. He has over 12
years of experience including institutionalizing innovation development
frameworks, and creating consumer engagement solutions for companies and
clients across the CPG, Real Estate, and nonprofit sectors. Randal has spoken
at conferences such as SXSW (3X), State of Play, National Human Services
Assembly National Meeting, Disney Institute’s Digital Now, and the American
Marketing Association Hot Topic Tour.
first book is
The Future of
Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age
(Wiley).  His newest book, IGNITE (August 2016) is available for
purchase at most fine book stores,, as well as Amazon and other online booksellers.