How certain leadership behaviours can contribute to your firm’s innovation capacity in the world today. 2 Must Haves You Need For Innovation In Your Company are People and Leadership

The important role innovation can play in a company’s current and future success has been well established. However, developing this capability within the firm and maintaining it is no easy task for the SME. This blog post will discuss the two main elements needed to develop an innovative capacity within a firm:

(1) People
(2) Leadership

Examples of different qualities and traits that leaders need to have in order to be successful in the business world today will also be discussed later on. These qualities and traits are areas that you too can develop to become a better leader.

Bullet 2 Must Haves You Need For Innovation In Your Company

People

Fundamentally, innovation involves learning new knowledge, then creating and introducing something new and different from that knowledge. People are the essential ingredient in this process with highly skilled, highly motivated, creative and intelligent men and women a much sought after asset.

Attracting the right type of employee to your firm can be difficult but what is even more difficult is retaining them. People, especially the current generation of graduates, want to feel that the work that they are doing matters, that their contribution to the company is valued and they want a certain level of autonomy in carrying out their job. There are many examples of companies attracting highly skilled workers only to stifle any real engagement from them through too much management control and a risk adverse environment. Having poorly engaged employees, especially in times of recession, can be hazardous to a firm’s future health.

For a firm to develop a high innovative capacity, all its employees need to be fully engaged and working to their full potential. Employees must to be giving the challenges they are looking for. This can only be achieved through the appropriate leadership behaviours that instil trust among management and employees and develop a safe learning environment where people are willing to openly share information and ideas.

Leadership

Two theorists, Neil Anderson and Michael West identify a number of steps that can help leaders develop work group innovation capabilities in their firms.

One of the first things a leader must do is communicate a compelling vision of the direction the company is heading in. This vision must be understood and perceived as attainable by employees. It must gain widespread acceptance by the group and the vision’s future outcome
must hold some value to individuals in the group. If all four elements are present employee motivation and commitment to company goals will increase.

Secondly, leaders need to create a safe environment with high participation from employees. To do this, leaders need to involve more people in decision making through interaction, increasing employee influence and sharing information around the company. This will increase employee commitment to the outcomes of these decisions and increase their input of new ideas for improving existing processes. The leader’s main role here is to create an atmosphere that is non-threatening, with a high level of thrust and support among all staff that results in higher employee contribution.

The next step for the leader is to employ a shared commitment to excellence among all employees. This approach involves reflecting on current work processes, individual and group performance, putting in place feedback and performance appraisal mechanisms,
encouraging the sharing of advice and ideas among teams, and openly discussing opposing views with the overall aim of maximising quality of policies and procedures.

Finally, leaders need to communicate that they want employees to continuously look to improve or introduce new ways of doing things in the workplace. They must show their support by communicating approval for these attempts and by allocating the resources needed. The leader must show their openness to risk and the value of learning from previous failed attempts. They need to communicate the importance of a more long term view, rather than a short term focus, on the company’s operations.

These steps will help create an innovative culture in your company which is characterised by:

• Encouraging participation of employees in decision making
• Questioning conventional wisdom
• Risk taking

A firm with an innovative culture is thrilling and energising to work for. It is a place rife with risks and challenges. A place where highly sought after highly skilled workers seek out as a place they want to work and help play an important role in the future success of the firm.
In an article discussing the qualities and traits of successful leaders in the world today, Robert Safian interviewed CEO’s of very successful companies such as Nike, Intuit and Foursquare. He identified certain qualities and traits these leaders possessed that, he felt, helped them
to rise to their current positions. I have listed them here to show how certain behaviours of leaders can lead to great success.

Qualities and Traits:

• Efficiency and openness to ideas
• Being open to people closest to a problem suggesting ways to fix it
• A high level of ambition
• Ability to empower people to be proactive about solving problems
• Ability to build trust with employees, supporting experimentation and encouraging
failure
• Agility / Open to constant change
• Thrift

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