Innovation. Integration. Motivation.
Three simple words… however, implementation is extremely complex and rarely executed.
In today’s challenging environment, leadership has never been more complex. As leaders, we are the Commanders of our troops and have a responsibility to ensure we are consistently pushing forward to ensure victory. While the obvious route is to cut costs, limit availability of resources, manage cash efficiently and hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive – this is merely defensive maneuvering. It is absolutely essential that we, as leaders, recognize that we cannot win the war of sustainable competitive advantage without going on the offensive to courageously engage people as a competitive weapon to ensure we are victorious.
In order to win the war for global domination, we must engage both our colleagues and our employees on three key battlefields: Innovation, Integration and Motivation. This week, we will address the first of these combat zones: Innovation.
Sadly, leadership has not fundamentally changed in over 100 years. We may move things around, make them look a little different or change up the phraseology – but there has been little actual innovation in leadership theory and practice in a very long time. Think about it. When was the last time you did something truly innovative for your business?
We, as leaders, must begin to think and act differently. We have the capacity to see the world from a completely different angle. Yet, when push comes to shove, we are often hesitant to really leverage the inherent power that is within us to influence meaningful change. The reality is that in order to move forward, we have to start – one foot in front of the other. We have to be willing to leverage our unique influence as leaders to move our organizations forward. One absolutely essential way that we can move toward bringing innovation back to the forefront is to actively engage the resources that are available to us in order to facilitate new ideas and concepts coming to fruition.
There is currently an invisible enemy on the Innovation battlefield. It is stealing not only our ability to innovate, but also our opportunity to partner with valuable resources that would enable innovation to move forward once again! The innovation adversary’s power is rooted in the lack of communication and partnership that exists between and across our businesses… not to mention within our partnerships and strategic alliances. Our inability to leverage innovative opportunities from all viable corners of the battlefield is currently devouring our potential to create sustainable competitive advantage. Many years of experience has shown that business (as a whole) struggles to transform all available resources into viable competitive weapons – most organizations struggle to even understand the value of the resources within their own encampment! Those companies that successfully translate their ability to understand and develop, at an experiential level, new or innovative ideas that can be implemented to positively impact business are those that win the war… every time.
There is a two part critical path to successfully gaining the upper hand on the Innovation Battlefield:
- The development and implementation of technical and strategic programs:
a. Technical Advisory Councils: Internal, cross-unit, cross-functional innovation think tanks enabling employees to bring their (often hidden) knowledge, expertise and ideas to the company on a cross-unit, cross-functional scale for further evaluation and development.
b. Strategic Advisory Councils: Innovative think tanks bringing strategic alliances, partners and customers together to contribute their perspectives, knowledge, expertise and ideas to your company for further evaluation and development.
I have personally implemented and seen these in action on many occasions – THEY WORK!
2. The development and implementation of Bench Science: There is a real and present need for the integration of theory and practice resulting in innovation. Despite the complexity and confusion that exists on every battlefield, Translational – or Bench – Science is a way to create victory from the jaws of defeat. This particular concept comes from medicine, however we need to bring it to our organizations and leverage it as a worthy weapon to defeat our invisible enemy. The term currently refers to translating clinical trials from the medical lab to real people. In essence, the same principles apply to business. We need to translate the ideas and concepts that are developed in the think tanks and apply/adapt them to what we know and understand to be real in business… and then deploy them in the real world in order to realize innovation. It seems an easy concept, but most people have difficulty in translating theory into application.
By employing our relationship skills, along with our inherent understanding of what needs to get done and the determination to see it through – we, as leaders, can develop multi-functional “active think tanks” within the battlefield to turn concepts into innovative reality within the context of what we do – global business. The opportunity for potential theories to be developed, tested and pushed to their limits is an exciting, different way to fight for competitive advantage in a very real way. We must, as leaders, push to disavow the Innovation Enemy and bring a new sense of invention and change to our joint battleground.
The idea that business entities would actively partner to create a battleground where powerful new ideas are created, high potential theories are tested and exciting new thoughts are pushed to their limits is an exciting, uncharted placed to be – yet in today’s environment it seems to be a novel idea. We must, as leaders, push to disavow the enemies of innovation and create a new sense of partnership and change in an environment that enables joint forces.
If we are to evolve, we need to integrate ourselves as a critical component within the structure of programmic think tanks and Translational Science in global business. TAC and SAC Programs together with Translational Science facilitate innovation that is motivated by the need for practical application. Who is more practical than ourselves? We, as leaders, are the Commanders leading our troops into battle in this story – the model of practicality!
Ultimately, there is always an opportunity gap between what makes an institution successful today and what is required on tomorrow’s battlefield. Leadership, technology and environment are all constantly evolving to produce new and innovative opportunities to advance your troops and defeat your opponents. The concept is simple, but it is not easy. The future is now. It is about what we are doing now to prepare ourselves, our colleagues and our employees for future battles – not what we will do to defend and protect ourselves. There is a paradoxical tension between making a difference today and engaging the future. However if we, as Commanders, do not have the ability to focus on today’s challenges, while simultaneously engaging the war to ensure strategic innovation, our ability to move forward in victory is surely at risk.
Are you prepared to fight the Innovation battle in order to win the war?